The schedule is deceiving.


Football season is still approximately one month away with Belton opening its schedule on Aug. 27 at Georgetown, and the players are not even permitted to begin practicing until Aug. 9.


Unofficially, however, preparations are already underway.


“I’m not resting at all,” Tigers senior Wriley Madden said. “I’m working out every day, and it is a grind.


“There are no days off for me, because every day is an opportunity to get better.”


While coaches might spend the final few weeks of summer attending clinics, reviewing gameplans, experimenting with depth charts, watching film and coordinating practice schedules, some might assume players are merely lounging around.


It is not true.


Although coaches often encourage athletes to simply enjoy their summers, it can be difficult for players to detach themselves from the sport, especially when they have something to prove.


Belton missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons, including last year, when the Tigers went 3-7 under new head coach Brett Sniffin, and the experience motivates tight end Itty Henry.


“Our No. 1 goal as a team is to get back to the playoffs,” the senior said. “The disappointment of last year is fueling me.”


Like Madden, Henry attended the Tigers’ strength and conditioning sessions as much as possible over the summer, and he spends time daily working to improve his skills on his own.


Regardless of the avenue being used, Madden believes it is imperative for players to understand there is no time to waste.


“The season is right around the corner,” the safety/line backer said. “The competitive spirit should already be kicking in.


“We need to take some serious steps, because game day is going to arrive quickly.”


One of the reasons Madden feels such urgency revolves around the Tigers’ start to last season.


While winning during the District 12-6A schedule and thus gaining a playoff berth is the ultimate goal, early success could be key to jumpstarting the season. Last year, Belton lost all three of its nondistrict games before falling two games shy of fourth place in the district race.


“I want everybody to be competing at their peak during the first three games,” Madden said. “We should already be at our top level of performance.


“We have a lot of young guys on the team, and that will be a good opportunity for them to feel things out, so they are ready for district.”


In the end, the Tigers will have multiple practices to jell before the season begins, and Henry is confident all the additional offseason preparations will only help to accelerate the process.


“It is really important to be able to hit the ground running when practice starts,” he said. “A lot of my friends on the team are working out already.


“This season is really big for a lot of reasons, and I want to make it the best one possible.”

By Clay Whittington