Shaking off the dust and cobwebs

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Mustang football practice is underway, and as Madisonville’s new athletic director pointed out, all the teams in the district have the same record.

The team took the field for the first time under new leadership with Head Coach Rusty Nail, Defensive Coordinator Brady Conger and Offensive Coordinator Russell Urbantke. Madisonville High School graduate and Dallas Cowboys recruit Chris Whaley joined the coaching staff this year, and will work alongside returning coaches Brad Taylor, Sheldon Moor, Brian Thurmond, Lu Olvera, Trae Poe and Russell Smith.

Potential players gathered in the weight room Monday afternoon for the first practice of the year and were cautioned by Coach Nail to stay hydrated and consume proper nutrients.

Nail has repeatedly emphasized that he hasn’t selected starters for the fall season or even determined which athletes will suit up for varsity games.

“The color jersey you have on now doesn’t matter,” Nail said during Monday’s practice. “This is nothing but a locker room. There’s a lot of unanswered questions. The team needs to be determined before we get to [the season opener at] Diboll. Don’t be concerned with where your locker’s at. What we’re looking for today is great effort and great attitude.”

While Cameron and Bremond are considered to be the teams to beat in the district, Madisonville has been mentioned by area sportswriters as a school that could be a surprise contender. The Mustangs finished 1-9 last year “but played a bunch of sophomores,” Nail pointed out.

The new head coach added that even though he’s won a couple of state championships, he’s not the savior.

“It’s going to take all of us,” he said, adding some kind words for the team’s former head coach, Greg Morgan. “Coach Morgan has been a friend of mine for a long time. He’s probably forgotten more football than I know. It takes a lot of mental and physical toughness. There’s talent here. There always has been. We’ve got to come fully committed. The wins are going to take care of themselves.”

Nail plans to lead the team through individual drills, game practice and conditioning on weekdays from 5 to 9 p.m. He has invited parents to attend practices.

“We are right where we want to be,” Nail said on Monday. “Every other team in the district is right where we are. We need to be that surprise team. If you see anything in the paper [about this team] other than depth, physical and mental toughness and commitment, it didn’t come from my mouth. We’ve got to be Mustang tough and do it the Mustang way.”

The Mustang season begins with a scrimmage in Fairfield on Aug. 12. The first home game is vs. Woodville on Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m.

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