BUTTE — Don Peoples Jr. has been coaching the Butte Central football team for so long that he's not entirely sure how many years it's been.
"It think it's 32 or 33, it's been so long I'm not sure," Peoples said with a chuckle at the Maroon Activities Center practice field on Friday where Central was holding it's first practice of the season.
He's been coaching since long before any of his current players were born, but still hasn't lost any of his motivation for it.
"It's what gets me out of bed," Peoples said. "I just love being on the football field with some great coaches and great kids. And that's part of what the game of football is all about."
And after the turbulence of last season, he's looking forward to heading into a season that feels somewhat normal.
The Maroons are back following a 2020 season in which the pandemic wreaked havoc on Central's schedule. Peoples made the decision to forfeit their opener against Hamilton due to a lack of practice opportunities caused by COVID and wildfire smoke.
Things didn't get much better for the Maroons, who ultimately saw six games canceled en route to a 1-5 overall record.
"We had a really difficult year last year," Peoples said. "It was really hard on the kids. But we're just gonna take things one day at a time and be optimistic."
With a full schedule ahead of them, the Maroons were feeling optimistic at their first practice.
"It feel awesome to get back out here," said senior running back Eyston Lakkala. "We missed it last year. Season got kind of wrecked a little bit but it's good to be back out here."
Central will open its season on August 27 at Polson. For the next two weeks, gearing up for that opener against the Pirates is the sole focus.
"We just got to condition hard cause we're gonna be on both sides of the ball," said Lakkala. "I think we're gonna have a good season and I think we're overlooked. I think we're gonna go in there and play some hard football like I know we can. I think we're gonna run some teams over."