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Craig, Parker begin football practice

By Eric Schmoldt
August 4, 2015

The first day of high school football practice annually represents a fresh start.

But for the city's programs, Tuesday more than ever represented a clean slate.

At Janesville Parker High, Clayton Kreger officially began his tenure as head coach. Across town at Janesville Craig, head coach Ben McCormick began weeding through a roster nearly bare of returning starting players.

The Vikings and Cougars have a little more than two weeks to get situated. The regular season kicks off Aug. 21, with Parker hosting Middleton and Craig traveling to Beloit Memorial in Big Eight Conference play.

“The games come so fast,” McCormick said. “You've got to start plugging guys in and hopefully get it right and put kids in the best positions. It's tough.”

Every day since March 27 has presented something new for Kreger, who was hired on that day and hit the ground running.

“We had our Pride Camp, but today was a little different mindset, and the kids were excited,” Kreger said. “Right now we're really focusing on just getting better and coming together as a team, doing the little things right. Our kids are just moving forward and working ahead.”

Kreger, a 2001 Parker graduate, was part of the program's first-ever Big Eight title in 2000. The Vikings won five league titles between 2000 and 2006 and had made 15 WIAA playoff appearances in 16 years when Joe Dye retired in 2011.

Parker has won just seven games in three seasons since, and Kreger said he is looking forward to getting better as a coach and a team and watching his players buy into each other.

“Parker football means so much to me, and I look forward to watching our kids transition into a successful program,” he said. “We have a motto—no excuses and all in. That's our thought every play.”

Craig is coming off a 6-4 season that saw it return to the WIAA playoffs for the first time since 2008.

But a massive senior class that paved the way graduated and moved on.

“The first thing I said (Tuesday) to the guys was raise your hand if you started on offense or defense in the first game last year. Not one hand went up,” McCormick said. “We started all seniors, all 22, to start last year.”

That means starting spots and playing time are up for grabs. And McCormick says this is the most competition he's seen to start a fall camp since he took over at Craig in 2009.

“We're not necessarily young, because we have a good amount of seniors,” McCormick said. “But there's not a lot of experience.”

The new-look Cougars and Vikings have 17 days to get ready.