PASCO -- The sun crept over the horizon Wednesday morning as the Chiawana football players trickled onto their sparkling new field.
For the first group of Riverhawks ever to don the uniform, it was a special day.
"It's pretty exciting, being the first group out here," said junior quarterback Luc Graff, son of coach Steve Graff. "I'd rather it be us. Not too many kids get this chance to be first."
Luc got up a few times during the night in nervous anticipation for the big day.
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"But once they get us out there and run us, I'm sure I'll sleep well tonight," he said.
Meanwhile, Steve spent the minutes before the start of 6 a.m. practice talking to the parent of a transfer student about the necessary paperwork to clear him to play.
"The first day is always a pain in the rear end," Steve said. "You've got to deal with eligibility packets, all that little stuff. And we've got to see who actually shows up here and who's at Pasco High. There were some last-minute changes because of where they drew the lines."
Then, Steve looked at the gloaming to the east and the kids gathering on the field, and smiled.
"This is perfect," he concluded. "It's not going to be 100 degrees."
The day ended with the Southridge players chasing down red pinnies and blocking pads under the Lampson Stadium lights.
"The kids look forward to it," said 10th-year Suns coach Andy Troxel. "The down time in August drives them nuts. They're ready for football stuff to begin. They're ready to hit each other already."
Around the Mid-Columbia, high school teams donned helmets and practice uniforms for the first time.
On Saturday, they can add pads to the mix and begin contact drills, all in preparation for the season's first kickoffs on Sept. 4.
Like the first day of major league spring training, for one day, at least, everybody could believe that this would be their year.
"You can call me an optimist all you want, but even when I was at Ki-Be, I came in each year thinking we were going to win the state championship," said Kamiakin coach Scott Biglin, who takes over for longtime coach Craig Beverlin after two seasons at the helm for the Bears.
"The kids are pumped. They're ready to get playing. This no-pad stuff is killing them."
Biglin is one of nine new coaches in the region -- including Ray Hernandez, who is taking over the freshly minted program at Sunnyside Christian.
Of the nine newcomers, four are first-time head coaches, including Rich Harris at Columbia (Burbank), who takes over after serving as an assistant at Prosser for several years.
"It was the little stuff I wasn't expecting," Harris said after leading his charges in special teams drills for almost an hour. "Pumping up footballs, handing out helmets, getting practice jerseys set out."
Like Harris, Dustin Lamb -- taking over at Pasco after a year off following a four-year stint at Grandview -- had worked with his players during spring ball and at summer camp.
Still, Wednesday held special meaning for the 1995 Pasco graduate.
"We're on the clock now," Lamb said. "It's three weeks until our first test. And even though it's 100 degrees now, it felt like fall in the morning."