(Bleacher Hype) Midnight Madness isn’t just a basketball thing anymore. The Wildcats hosted “Midnight Madness” in their home stadium as the clock struck 12 a.m. last Thursday, conducting a full football practice at the earliest moment permitted.
“We’re starting some new traditions and trying to create a culture of winning,” Head Coach Jimmy Williams said. “It was important to the team to do something different.”
Through some light showers, the scoreboard clock lit up at 11:45 Wednesday night and proceeded to count down to midnight–the first time teams are allowed to hold full practices and the official start of the 2013 football season.
Then, like children on the night of Christmas Eve, dozens of West Johnston students and parents eagerly awaited the moment when the countdown clock hit 0:00 and the Wildcats stormed onto the field in a haze of white smoke.
With rain continuing to fall, fans waving flags and music blaring from the speakers, the team used the first half of practice to run through conditioning drills before going into more depth and executing offensive plays.
About halfway through the 90-minute practice at West Johnston, the sky opened up and the rain came down hard. Through stormy conditions, the team continued to practice.
“Of course, the rain caused us to slip around and fumble a little bit,” Smith said. “But all in all, I think we got out of the event what we wanted.”
The Wildcats were fortunate. While a similar event held at Leesville Road High School early Thursday morning was cancelled due to heavy rain and lightning, conditions improved at West Johnston as the rain subsided and practice remained dry for the rest of the morning.
The practice closed with skill players running 7-on-7 football scrimmages and lineman conducting drills on the opposite side of the field.
“That’s classic high school football,” Williams said of the rain at the event. “All I did was run around, act like a teenager and tell them to protect the football.”
The most important thing Wildcat players enjoyed about the midnight practice was the opportunity for bonding between players, coaches, students and parents.
“It’s great being out here with them,” said West Johnston tight end Josh Banfalvy. “We’re coming together and I love the atmosphere that Coach Williams is bringing to the team.”
As a new coach at West Johnston, Williams is hoping to bring success to the Wildcats in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference. He was happy to start the process of improvement by bringing the event to the school.
“We started it when I was at Leesville Road,” Williams said. “It’s a good way to kick the season off with some excitement and it’s going to be a new tradition that we start here at West Johnston.”
Players and coaches were surprised by the turnout of students who made it to the school early in the morning and braved the elements to support their football team.
“It was amazing,” Banfalvy said. “I love having our student section here. They’re great, and we’re all like a big family here at West.”