Most high school football teams have one conditioning session per practice in the weeks leading up to the season.
That’s not the case at Tolton. The Trailblazers go through one session at the beginning of practice and another at the end, with individual and team drills in between.
“For us, it’s more important than any other team,” coach Michael Egnew said. “We have kids that will never leave the field. We condition hard because we can’t not be in shape.”
Egnew – a former All-American tight end at Missouri – took over as Tolton’s head coach last season after spending four years as an assistant. The Trailblazers went 1-9 last fall, the lone win via forfeit against Cardinal Ritter.
“We have to climb,” Egnew said. “It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you’re going. That’s all that matters to us.”
Tolton will have to overcome the loss of three key players to graduation. Offensive tackle Monroe Mills enrolled early at Oklahoma State, CJ Campbell caught 53 passes for 578 yards and four touchdowns last season, and Connor Fogue posted team highs in tackles (80), tackles for loss (six) and sacks (two).
The Trailblazers return four starters on both sides of the ball and have 19 players on the roster. Coaches fill the positional holes in practice to give the offense and defense a full look.
“We’re playing under similar circumstances (as last year), so it’s nothing new,” quarterback and defensive back Gabe Pfenenger said. “If someone goes down, it’s next man up. We’re doing everything in our power to get prepared and be the best we can be.”
Pfenenger is looking to build off last season, when he completed just over 50% of his passes for 1,232 yards. Wide receiver and defensive back Dylan Block is also back after recording 35 tackles and two interceptions last fall.
“All of our players are really enthusiastic for the season to start,” Egnew said. “With a smaller roster, we’re able to install some more complex plays since it’s easier to teach fewer people.”
Tolton is slated to begin the year against the team that ended its 2019 season – Hallsville. The Indians beat the Trailblazers twice last fall, including a 41-18 victory in the first round of the Class 2 District 5 playoffs.
Tolton is scheduled to host Macon in Week 2, Bishop DuBourg/Hancock in Week 4, St. Charles Duchesne in Week 6 and St. Louis Priory in Week 9. The Trailblazers are set to travel a combined 451.5 miles for their road games – Hallsville, O’Fallon Christian (Week 3), Lutheran St. Charles (Week 5), Kansas City Hogan Prep Academy (Week 7) and Cuba (Week 8).
“Every game is going to be a battle,” Egnew said. “Each game is its own season for us. We have to be physically prepared and mentally prepared by not getting down on ourselves. That’s how we’re going to find victory.”