As the sun peeked from behind the clouds, the Havelock Rams were already drenched in their own sweat.
The Rams have been participating in a before-school conditioning program that the team has dubbed "Black Reign," which has started at 6 a.m. each morning.
The program consists of one lap around the track and stretches to warm up. Then the players split into four equal groups to go through the drills.
Assistant coaches Mitch Williams and Bob Sabdo run medicine ball drills, Shane Williams and Kenny Frazier run ground drills, Defensive Coordinator Caleb King runs cone drills, and Pat Whitford and Nick McIntosh do bag drills.
About 60 players have shown up each day for the program.
"It’s been great to see these kids’ commitment to this conditioning program," Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant said. "We have had one varsity kid and one JV kid miss one day apiece and that is it.
"We got the idea from North Carolina at a clinic, because they do something similar and call it "Blue Dawn," so we decided to see if the kids were up for it and called it "Black Reign.’"
Bryant said the players were energized, alert and very vocal going through the drills. Junior Anthony Fisher and senior Taylor Woods were among the loudest.
"This means a lot to me, being my senior year and seeing how bad the guys want to be better and go after the third straight state championship," Woods said. "We want to be in better shape than anyone we play, and with me playing on both sides of the ball this year, it will be a huge benefit for me."
The Rams treat the pre-classroom workout like they would any practice or game day. After the drills, they gather with Bryant at mid-field for prayer and football lessons.
Bryant said that building more camaraderie for a two-time, reigning and defending state championship team is the biggest benefit of the program.
"You know we have every varsity starter here every day and both of the kickers asked me if they could be a part of it as well," Bryant said. "A team can never be too together, and these kids are willing to do things like this that set them apart from other teams that don’t."
Bryant also likes that programs such as this allow coaches to see who their leaders are and prepare them for adversity during the season.
"Every team faces some sort of adversity at some point in the season and we are no different," Bryant said. "Things like Black Reign though, help prepare us better to face it and shows us who are going to be the guys to take control and lead this team."