EMPORIA (KSNT)- Emporia State football had its first practice of the season Tuesday.

“Day one is what everybody thinks about the entire offseason,” redshirt junior Case Cochran said. “Being able to get back out here with all your guys, and in our case your family, there’s really nothing better.”

Topeka native Dalton Cowan will play, after a season-ending injury took him off the field most of the past season.

“I could not be more excited to throw the pads on,” Cowan said. “That’s something that I love about football. Beautiful day. Couldn’t ask for a better day. We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time and glad it’s here.”

Tommy Zimmerman got some unexpected playing time with Cowan out, and proved to be a valuable piece of the Hornets’ offense.

“Today was good,” Zimmerman said. “Kind of knocked the rust off a little bit, but we’re ready to get back at it.”

The coaches share that excitement with the players.

“It’s awesome,” strength and conditioning coach Daniel Goodman said. “Obviously, doing the weight stuff in the summer, I love doing that, but being with the guys truly with football with why they’re here… it’s awesome.”

Head coach Garin Higgins says players have been working all summer, but it’s special for the coaching staff to finally be able to join them and get official practices underway.

“It felt good to get back out here,” Higgins said. “It really did. It’s just, we were ready to practice. We’d been through so many meetings.”

The team is ready to work after a 2021-22 season that didn’t meet its expectations, he said.

“We got hungry players,” Higgins said. “We got guys that love the game of football, and when you got guys that love the game of football, they’re going to listen to that. They’re going to work to try to get better and not be satisfied because they are a veteran.”

Emporia State opens its season at home against Northeastern State on Thursday, Sept. 1.