LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – For the first time this year, high school football teams across the state of Michigan were able to hit the practice field, on Monday, to prep for the upcoming 2023 campaign.

It means it’s time for the 6 Sports team to start up their annual ‘Two-A-Days’ coverage, which features 20 stops in ten days.

Stop No. 1 was at Lansing Catholic, where Jim Baker is set to enter his third year as head coach.

The Cougars’ first three days of practice will take play at the Fort Custer National Guard training facilities in Battle Creek. They left on Sunday and are hoping the trip can help the younger players adjust to varsity football.

With just six seniors, this will be Baker’s youngest team. So, the approach at practice is going to be a lot different than the previous two seasons, which featured a state title in 2021.

“We’re going to spend a lot more time on individual workouts instead of team (workouts),” Baker said. “With a lot of guys in new positions, we really want to, as a coaching staff, we decided to step back and make sure technique is there before we get into team plays.”

Junior quarterback Alex Fernandez said. “We brought a lot of energy (in the offseason). Some coaches said better than any other year.”

The next stop features a rival of the Cougars as well as the reigning champs in the CAAC White.

Portland will be led by John Novara for the 25th straight season. The Raiders have won the league title in seven of the last eight years. The only year they didn’t win was when Lansing Catholic took it home in 2021.

Novara and the coaching staff will be looking to replace last year’s starting quarterback and running back, but the smash-mouth mentality the Raiders pride themselves on remains the same.

“It starts in Junior Raiders. We’re coached all the way through like that. We run the same offense all the way through,” senior guard and linebacker Mark Meyers said.

Senior slot and safety Caden Thelen added, “They pretty much taught us how to be, I don’t know, Vicious. You got to hit them before they hit you.”

Novara backed up the Raiders run-first offense by saying, “It fits our community. It fits our personnel. It fits the kids on our team.”

“We’re a run-first football team, but we do have some skilled kids that can make some plays. So, I think we’re going to be a little more balanced this year.”