BUTTE — On a Friday afternoon where temperatures were soaring into the high 90s, Arie Grey could be seen walking around Naranche Stadium donning a long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt.
It hardly seemed to be the most comfortable attire on a scorching field, but the Butte High football coach had some reasoning behind the madness.
"It's a lovely day," said Grey with a smile. "And if I'm not complaining about the heat, then they shouldn't be complaining about the heat."
It may have been a sizzling day, but the excitement was still palpable as the Bulldogs kicked off their 2021 season with a midnight practice on Friday and then returned for Round 2 that afternoon.
Butte, which fell in the first round of the playoffs to Helena Capital last season -- a year removed from advancing to the State AA championship -- will open on the road this season. Their first game is at Billings Senior on Thursday, Aug. 26.
"It's warm out, but it's nice to be out. Football's back," said senior kicker Casey Kautzman. "Waiting yesterday for midnight practice was like waiting for Christmas. I'm just excited to be back and I can say that for everyone here."
"It's like Christmas Day," Grey said. "And that first day, it's kind of exciting to get started and see where we're at. We're excited. A good group of kids that are working hard and flying around and that's really all we want from them right now."
Butte avoided any canceled games last season but still had to adapt to pandemic-related travel restrictions and not being able to utilize locker rules. This year, hopefully, will more closely resemble that of seasons past.
The Bulldogs will have a number of positions to fill, especially at offense. Starting quarterback Blake Drakos is graduated as is tight end Jake Olson and wide receiver Tanner Huff. Both Olson and Huff are now with the Montana Grizzlies.
"It's all wide open," Grey said. "As we tell the kids everyday and every year, 22 spots are open and all special teams are open."
What is the key to an aspiring starter gaining that spot on the Bulldogs' depth chart?
"Show up everyday," Grey said. "Make sure that when we turn on film or we're watching practice it's like 'who was that?' That's what you want to see."
On Grey's team, positions are earned.
"That's what football and that's what sports and athletics are all about is working for things and not getting it handed to you," Grey said.