PITTSBURG, Kan. — The 2019 football season officially got underway with Pittsburg State’s first team practice taking place at the Robert W. Plaster Center on Friday morning.

Sporting practice jerseys and helmets, the Gorillas hit the turf for 2 1/2 hours of conditioning and drill work in the 24-period session.

“It’s great for us as coaches to get back on the practice field,” Pittsburg State head coach Tim Beck said. “We want to get back out here and see our guys. We had a good summer with the guys who stuck around. … We feel good with where we are at.”

“It’s exciting to get back out here with all the guys,” junior linebacker and Webb City product Kaden Roy said. “Some guys weren’t here this summer, and some were. It’s great to get back in uniform and see everybody back on the field together. It’s football season.”

The Gorillas have two practices in helmets before strapping on the shoulder pads. The first full-padded practice is scheduled for Tuesday.

“We pride ourselves on being a very physical team, so we are excited to put the pads on,” Roy said. “It kind of gives you the full picture of what the team will look like at full speed.”

These early practice sessions are vital for guys stepping into bigger roles, which is why having a senior class of 23 is crucial in terms of leadership.

“We know how important is to have a well-led senior class,” senior offensive lineman Ryan Dodd said. “When I was a young player, all the seniors ahead of me were great leaders. I am trying to set that same example for the younger guys coming up on this team.”

“We have a great group (of seniors) who have put a lot of time and effort into this program,” Beck said. “I know they have high expectations as well.”

The first practice brings a lot of emotions for both coaches and players. While everyone is excited to get underway, there are highs and lows when the entire program is brought together for the first time in the new year.

“My favorite part of the first practice is getting everyone back out here running around and seeing the enthusiasm from everybody,” Beck said.

“What I love about the first practice is being back on the field with the team,” Dodd said. “We have been working all summer, and now we get to start putting all of that on the field.”

The downside of the first practice?

“Probably waking up early,” Roy said with a laugh. “You get a week break before practice starts, so you are sleeping in as much as possible. Once you get into that routine, breaking it for an 8 a.m. practice is hard.”

“My least favorite part is having to tell everybody to strap their chin straps up,” Beck said with a smile. “That is something we shouldn’t have to tell them. It is just the little things that have to be ironed out so we are all on the same page.”

Pittsburg State’s season opener is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sept. 5 against Central Oklahoma in Edmond.