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WL Central opens the 2017 season with 13th annual 'Midnight Madness' football practice

Football   | Jeff Dullack

WL Central opens the 2017 season with 13th annual 'Midnight Madness' football practice

Walled Lake – With football practices set to open across the state of Michigan on Monday, there were several teams that chose not to wait any longer by opening up the 2017 season at midnight as Sunday night became Monday morning.

And like every year, with parents and former players looking on, Walled Lake Central kicked off the season with its 13th annual Midnight Madness football practice on Monday morning.

“It’s what makes high school football special,” Central head coach Bob Meyer said of the atmosphere of the midnight football practice. “All of the people who’ve done it in the past, everybody – my phone blows up because they’re all wishing you a great practice. It’s one of those traditions that we started a long time ago that the kids want to keep going and their families want to keep going and this was a great year because the cheer and the pom program got to be a part of it. So it’s all about Walled Lake Central, the whole student body and the whole school.”

The yearly tradition of opening football practice with a midnight practice was started by Meyer and his coaching staff when they first arrived 13 years ago and the practice session continues to be extremely popular for the players and coaches.

Senior quarterback and safety Michael Woolridge said that the excitement hasn’t worn off for himself and his teammates and added that they like being among the first teams to take the field each season.

“Every single year when we come out here at midnight, it’s always great,” he said. “You have the old alumni coming through – it’s just a special time for us to be able to have that first practice as early as we can. It’s really exciting.”

But for the Vikings, there are players on this year’s team who are new to the midnight practice tradition, like senior running back and linebacker Tyler Markray, who transferred to Central from Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.

Markray said that Monday’s practice goes beyond being a midnight practice, but is also an opportunity for him to play with his new teammates for the first time in 2017.

“This is actually brand new for me,” he said. “It’s a new environment, getting along with everybody, getting to know new players, new coaches – it’s actually going real well for me.”

Markray is one of a handful of newcomers for the Vikings this year and Meyer said that after welcoming the new players to the Central family, he teaches all of them the traditions the football team has, which obviously includes the midnight practice, which all of the players have embraced.

“The first thing that we say is welcome to the family, that’s been our traditional beginning,” he said. “The second part is that we have a tradition and a storied past as well and we owe that past to give 110-percent and represent Walled Lake Central football and he has bought into that as well as the other boys who’ve come in new to Walled Lake Central.”

Looking ahead to the goals for the 2017 season, the Vikings are aiming at a return trip to the playoffs after falling short in each of the past two seasons.

Woolridge, who recently picked up an offer from Eastern Michigan, said that he’s motivated to end his high school career on a high-note, which includes a winning season and the Vikings’ first playoff berth since 2014.

“I’m beyond excited,” he said. “I know that everybody says that this is going to go by in the blink of an eye. I can’t wait for us to have a winning season, but I can’t wait for it to not be over, I want it to keep going on, it’s going to be fun.”

Markray, who holds a preferred walk-on offer from Oregon, is no stranger to success on the football field as he’s been a part of the St. Mary’s program that has won three straight Division 3 state titles and hopes to achieve similar success with Central this fall.

“I hope for me and my team to go to the playoffs and go far and hopefully to go undefeated, that’s the plan this year, and go out this season with a bang,” he said. “

Meyer echoed what his players had to say about their goals for the upcoming season and also added that with the Vikings playing in the new Lakes-Valley conference, Central has aspirations of winning a conference title and hosting a playoff game this fall.

“Every year, there’s something new and refreshing and this year, the new league that we’re going into is something that’s unknown,” he said. “We’re all excited about that potential being the very first League Champion for the new league. What we’re about right now is that we want a home playoff game, that’s our mantra right now. Not only do we want to have success in the regular season, not only do we want to beat our city rivals and win the league, but we want a playoff and not only a playoff game, we want a home playoff game. That’s what Walled Lake Central deserves.”