BOONEVILLE — The usual hustle and bustle inside the Booneville field house was nowhere to be found Friday morning.

Players were home; many were still asleep.

At 11 o'clock on a Friday morning? During two-a-day season?

That would change by Friday night. And, while most people were tucked in, dreaming of summer nights (or winter) at the stroke of midnight, the Bearcats were on the football field.

Full pads and all.

"We have an ice cream social this evening for the boys," Booneville coach Scott Hyatt said. "Then we'll be on the field after midnight when we can practice in full pads."

Hyatt said the team planned to practice for two hours.

With 18 returning starters, including nearly all of their backfield, the Bearcats have plenty of reason for optimism in 2018.

Of course, optimism begins with people willing to lend a hand. Friday's ice cream social was sponsored by a group called "Friends of the Bearcats."

"Which is basically the kids' parents," Hyatt said. "They've done this for years. They'll get a list, or sometimes two or three families will go into together, and they'll feed the kids after every Friday night game. It might be a restaurant here in town, or on away games, they'll have pizza or sandwiches delivered."

Friday, "Friends of the Bearcats" churned out homemade ice cream.

No pressure

Hyatt, whose 2013 team won the 4A state championship, giving the alumni a state title banner to go with the one won by Doug Scheel's team in '86 and former coach Ken Rippy's bunch from 2000, is beginning his 12th season as the Bearcats' coach.

He's 67 games over .500. And, though there is pressure from within the community, the 53-year-old coach doesn't fret over the little things.

"When I was younger, yes, but I was putting more pressure on myself than anyone else," Hyatt said. "The older you get, you realize the stress isn't worth it. I rarely have a problem here, and I don't have to ask for stuff. It's like yesterday, the insurance guy (Ross Kent) here in town asked, 'Coach, do you mind if I bring up some recovery drinks and protein bars for the boys after practice?'

"And he was here waiting on them after practice. That stuff happens all the time."

Let's eat!

Every time the Bearcats hit the road, players and coaches chow down with a Friday morning breakfast at Glendale Baptist Church. There is breakfast for home games, too.

Former Bearcat Joe O'Bar, who played for Rippy in the '90s, and Todd Tatum help cook up breakfast for players before home games.

"We have a church, on our away games, they'll cook breakfast for us every Friday morning," Hyatt said. "And then on home games, we have people that cook breakfast for the kids in the field house.

"You don't have to ask for help."

No off days

The Bearcats don't exactly have a soft schedule waiting on them before diving into conference play. Clarksville, Ozark and Pottsville are no walk in the park.

"Clarksville is much improved," Hyatt said. "Ozark is loaded, and Pottsville's always physical. Staying healthy through those first three games are going to be big for us."

Being confident is important, but being too overconfident can get you beat, Hyatt said.

"The biggest thing is us; we can be our worst enemy," the coach said. "The mental aspect of it; staying even keel and not getting too cocky. When you start getting too overconfident, somebody's going to beat you that's not supposed to."