Hunter Hays (left) and Ethan Johnston run a drill during practice on Aug. 21.

When the lights flicker on at Spike Vannoy Field for the first home game, it will be just a glimpse of the countless hours the Cody football team has already spent practicing and working toward wins on Friday nights.

“The team motto is win in the dark,” coach Matt McFadden said. “If you’re going to be successful under the lights on Friday night, you’ve got to do the work in the dark.”

The team is taking that mantra to heart this season after starting with a Midnight Madness practice at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 19.

“That’s why we had our first practice at midnight, doing it in the dark while no one is there,” quarterback Hunter Hays said.

The Broncs will look to improve on a 7-3 season in 2018 in which the team advanced to the 3A state semifinals. Still fresh in the memory for many of the team’s seniors is their state championship season from 2017.

During a practice on Aug. 22, McFadden brought forth Cam Myers, a member of Cody’s 2014 state championship team.

“This guy gave his all for us,” McFadden said.

Cody lost 14 seniors from last season, but returns some key pieces.

Hays will be back for his second year directing the offense at quarterback after earning All-Conference honors as a junior. With a year of experience under his belt, McFadden expects a big impact from his QB on and off the field.

“One thing he needed to improve in was vocal leadership and stepping up and I think he’s done a great job with that,” McFadden said. “He’s one of our team leaders and I expect big things from him this year.”

Hays, who has grown an inch and put on about 10 pounds of muscle since the start of last season, minced no words about his team’s goals and expectations this season.

“A state championship is always the goal,” he said.

McFadden also expects a great year for junior Nic Talich after a respectable sophomore campaign in which he ran for 208 total yards on 47 carries for three touchdowns in 2018. Although Talich had his fair share of “sophomore mistakes” as McFadden put it, he put in significant work in the weight room and practiced extensively during the offseason.

“I’m pretty excited to play,” Talich said.

But defense was where Cody shined in 2018, allowing the second least rushing yards in 3A football. A big part of that effort was fought in the trenches, where the team’s linemen truly shined.

“It gets hard down there,” tackle Brendan Donald said. “If you get hurt you’ve got to just keep pushing through it.”

Anchoring the line will be key All-State returners Jeff Williams and Keith Conner. The two combined for 89 tackles last season.

“They’re going to be solid,” McFadden said.

Running back Charlie Beaudrie will be entering his senior year as well. The All-State returner scored 20 times last season and collected 1,530 total yards, the sixth most in 3A football, but will miss the first two games due to suspension.

All-State defensive back Tristan Blatt is also back as a senior. He had 30 tackles last year and a team-best five pass blocks.

Although just a scrimmage, the Broncs meeting with 2018 1A state champion Big Horn at 4 p.m. Friday should serve as an interesting gauge for the season to come.

The Broncs will open their regular season with road games at Riverton on Sept. 6 and Worland on Sept. 13. Rawlins will be the opponent for the home opener Sept. 20 and Sept. 27 the Broncs take on Jackson for homecoming. Those Broncs were also a state semifinalist last season and beat Cody 27-7 in their only meeting.

McFadden said like any season, the leadership his team exemplifies will determine their success on the gridiron.

“As your seniors go your season goes,” McFadden said. “We have some seniors who have been really dedicated to this for four years who have put a lot of time and effort into it.”

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