Eau Claire (WQOW) -- High school football practice begins Tuesday for teams all around the area, including at Eau Claire Memorial and Eau Claire North.
The Old Abes are coming off their best postseason run in school history. Memorial made it to Level 3 of the WIAA Division 1 playoffs, before losing to eventual state champ Kimberly. New players will need to step up at Memorial after the graduation of a large and talented senior class. There are also new coaching, including the head man, Steve Crutchley.
"We've mapped out practice and tried to have different situations, make sure we just hit one each day, just so that we're on point," Crutchley says, "it's a learning process for me, it's a learning process for me, it's a learning process for the coaches and the kids. We'll get there, and that's what I tell them, it's a process, we're not worried about the game right now. It's going to come up fast, I know for the kids it's going to seem like forever, but it's going to come real quick."
Last year's success seems to have carried over into 2016 for the Abes.
"We've been working hard," says Memorial senior kicker Mason Craker, "we've been here every day in the morning, conditioning, getting ready, and we've had some 7-on-7 with ourselves, and I think we're ready to go."
"In these next couple weeks, we just want to work as hard as we can," says Old Abes senior linebacker Adam Krajewski, "there's a lot of young guys that haven't had too much experience, so we want to get them as much experience as we can, and be ready for that first game on the 19th."
"We worked really hard in the spring and the winter, working out every morning, pretty much," says Memorial senior offensive & defensive tackle Ben Foster,
"and then during the summer, we had our strength and conditioning and we had a really good turnout this year, I've been going to them these last three years and I've never seen a football turnout like this year."
Memorial opens its season on Friday, August 19, when the Old Abes host La Crosse Logan.
There's a new head coach at North as well, as Dave Decker takes over the Huskies program.
North started 2015 with back-to-back wins, but then injuries mounted, and the Huskies went winless the rest of the season. Still, Decker is optimistic that the program can do some good things going forward.
"Really, this group, I'm excited to coach them," Decker says, "they're good people, they're good players, but most of all, they're just, they're great people, the senior leadership was outstanding, as I said, the family support has been good, administration's been great, so I'm excited just to see what we can do this year with this team. Every year's different, as you know, so we're just going to take one step at a time and just continue to move forward."
North graduated some key skill players from the 2015 team, but there's a new senior class ready to step in and step up.
"I think [QB John] Bickle's going to have to step up, and we have a solid running back and we have a solid line," says North senior fullback/linebacker Tyler Zainhofsky, "I think we have a solid offense, offense should be the same."
"Last year I think we were able to kind of learn that we could compete with how great the Big Rivers was last year," says North senior tight end/defensive end Steve Luther, "we didn't have the greatest talent all the time but we were able to compete in some of the games, and stay with some of the teams that were able to go and make a deep playoff run, so I think we can build off of that."
"I think with the senior leadership that we have, and the group of younger guys that we have," says Huskies senior linebacker Ashton Miloszewicz, "we have a lot of hard-working kids on this team, so I think with that meshing together, I think it's going to be a really successful season."
North kicks off 2016 on Thursday, August 18, when the Huskies host La Crosse Central.