The Paper photo by John Groth <br>
Wabash College football players run stretching drills during their opening day of practice Tuesday.
The Paper photo by John Groth
Wabash College football players run stretching drills during their opening day of practice Tuesday.
Darryl Kennon's senses went into overdrive.

Before Wabash College's opening football practice, the Little Giants' senior defensive lineman took in the moment.

His eyes told him how committed the Little Giants stayed to their first summer football theme - "up the ante".

His ears listened as players yelled, whooped and teased each other about the new head coach Erik Raeburn's upcoming drills.

Even his nose could sniff out something different Tuesday afternoon.

"I don't think I've ever been as excited to start a season as I am (Tuesday)," Kennon said. "There's something special about this team. There's something in the air. Guys really dedicated themselves over this summer."

Wabash's first fall football practice started promptly at 3 p.m. Tuesday, with Raeburn quickly getting to work.

After some quick team exercises and stretching, he divided players into different specialty groups and had them work through offensive, defensive and workout drills.

Coming off an 11-2 season, third straight North Coast Athletic Conference championship and NCAA Division III Elite Eight appearance, the Little Giants enter this year with a new head coach and new offensive and defensive schemes.

Raeburn replaced former Little Giants' coach Chris Creighton, who was named the head football coach at NCAA Division I-AA Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

But Wabash players remain as hungry as ever to reach an even higher level - and get to what they hope will be the NCAA Division III Final Four and championship game.

That's why they implemented their first summer football theme, making players exercise and work out harder than ever before.

Junior starting quarterback Matt Hudson (who threw for 2,769 yards and 25 TD's last year) acknowledged he increased his workout load - running five times per week and throwing more passes than normal this summer.

"We picked it up a notch this summer over the last couple of seasons," Hudson said. "We needed to get after it. We have all the tools to make a good run this year."

Kennon, who led the team with 14 sacks last year, increased his exercise and strength routines - working with a personal trainer at home in Phoenix, Ariz., and picking up Muay Thai boxing over the summer.

Muay Thai boxing is a form of hand martial arts boxing which involves punching, kicking, elbowing, standing, grappling and head-butting opponents, according to the Thai Boxing of the USA's Web site.

Kennon wanted to work on his speed, especially with his hands and feet - which you need to keep moving on the defensive line.

"I can tell the difference (Tuesday) already," he said. "My feet feel a lot quicker. My hands are a lot better. This summer, I started to focus on it. Last year, I didn't have great hands. So I got after it this year."

Wabash doesn't open its season until Sept. 13 at conference rival Denison and will have nearly four weeks of practice time before its first game.

Hudson is excited to start the year with a conference opponent and can't wait to get football started again.

"It'll keep our heads on straight and gets everybody focused and ready to go from the start," he said. "We know if we don't win the first one, we can't win the conference. We have to keep that in mind."

Notes

Junior running back Evan Sobecki wasn't in pads during Tuesday's practice. He pulled both glut muscles during workouts.