BRADFORD – As the clock struck midnight, the pads started popping in Bradford as the Railroaders partook in their inaugural Midnight Maul.
Friday marked the first day of the 2015 season that Ohio High School Athletic Association football teams could hit. The Railroaders under first-year head coach Nathan Hyatt wasted no time in getting started with contact.
“They were ready to go,” Hyatt said of his players. “They were fired up.”
Bradford’s practice started at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, but the players were ready to go much sooner than that. When he pulled into the parking lot shortly after 9 p.m., Hyatt said, there already were 10 or 12 players’ cars in the lot.
The team made its way to its stadium and practiced under the lights beginning at 10:30 p.m. As the Railroaders practiced, the scoreboard counted down the minutes and seconds until midnight when contact could begin.
“You could tell the kids were getting antsy,” Hyatt said. “When we did team defense and there was like 20 minutes left on it they were ready to go. It was really exciting.”
Dozens of Railroader fans gathered in the stands and around the field to watch the open practice. They stuck around past midnight and watched Bradford’s players line up for one-on-one battles with their teammates after the clock struck 12.
“They had great intensity tonight, which is something as a coach you’re always looking for,” Hyatt said of his team. “We didn’t do anything as a staff. All that energy came from them.”
It was special to have the moment under the lights, Hyatt said, after last year when Bradford only had 17 football players and couldn’t field a varsity team. In 2014 the Railroaders only had a junior varsity team, but this year Bradford has more than 45 players – including almost 30 high school players – and is returning to a varsity schedule and Friday night lights.
“When we were walking over and they saw the lights it got them really excited,” Hyatt said. “We didn’t have the lights last year, and they saw those lights coming up when they were coming up that walkway, and they got really excited. That was good to see. “
The Railroaders displayed the energy, physicality and effort Hyatt wanted to see from them on the first day hitting was permitted.
“We got better tonight,” Hyatt said.