DE PERE - Tuesday was the first day high school football teams could hit the practice field and one local team has made the playoffs the last two seasons, but is looking for more this year.
That would be De Pere, which last season compiled a 6-2 regular-season record.
The Redbirds were fired up for Tuesday and can't wait to improve upon the 2012 season.
"We feel real good, we're happy to be out here," senior defensive back Blair Griffith said. "We've been waiting all summer; we've been lifting, working hard. So I think we're all real excited to get out here and after it."
Players won't put on pads until Friday, so for now coaches will try to teach.
"It's an install day for us," coach Chad Michalkiewicz said. "We try to set the tempo, but you're trying to do a lot of teaching. The trick is to get that teaching in but also keep the pace that's helping you get better for when you can put the pads on Friday."
De Pere has made the playoffs the last two seasons, but has failed to advance in the postseason. Griffith said it's on his mind to make sure the Redbirds don't have another quick postseason exit.
"First goal is to obviously make the playoffs; then we obviously this year want to move on and go farther," he said. "We've got the guys to do it, so we're all real excited about that."
For Michalkiewicz, he's thinking different. There's no concern about not winning a playoff game the last two years, he's looking at the big picture.
"Yeah, we're disappointed we haven't got out of round one in the playoffs," he said. "But on the other flip of the coin, I don't know two years ago how many teams would've said, 'Hey, De Pere's going to go 10-9 the next two years and make the playoffs.' I don't get too down about it. I'm focused on building the program and that's what we're doing."
When De Pere entered the 2011 season, it was coming off a 1-8 campaign and was hardly a thought by most as a postseason team. The Redbirds, though, went 4-5 during the regular season and punched the playoff ticket.
Just making the playoffs isn't good enough for De Pere anymore, and it knows it will need to be ready when the season starts. In Week 1, De Pere plays at Bay Port, a team many believe will compete to win the Fox River Classic Conference title last season, which was won by Green Bay Southwest.
Just who's going to win the FRCC; that appears to be a toss-up.
"It's tough to predict; 12-team conferences are huge," Michalkiewicz said. "I haven't been around this league that long but I don't that there has been back-to-back conference champions since the FRCC came into existence. There's a reason behind that.
"There's a lot of good football coaches around here coaching good teams."
"We definitely have some good competition," Griffith said. "It's a tough conference, but we're ready for the challenge."
Griffith is confident the Redbirds can be better than last season and he said at least for the first practice of the season everything was positive.
"All the guys are really fired up," Griffith said. "We're excited to play Bay Port Week 1."
De Pere has a 66-46 record since 2005 with seven winning seasons and two conference titles (2005 and 2007). … De Pere has won as many as 10 games in a season since 2005 (2005 and 2007). … De Pere's 1-8 record in 2011 was its worst in the last 11 seasons. … De Pere has made the playoffs in 10 of its last 11 seasons, but has not won a playoff game since 2007. … De Pere plays four home games this season and five away games, including its last three games.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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