Koonce Ready to Rejoin Monticello Backfield

Jeff Woody could hardly hide his excitement following Monticello High School's first football practice of the season.

"It's a national holiday," the Mustangs' head coach said. "The first day of football practice, you get the opportunity to get out and actually play. And all of that work in the off-season, and the weight room, you get to see it pay off. And kids are chomping at the bit. They wanted to be out here. The coaches, same way."

If Thursday was like Christmas morning for Woody, then one of his favorite gifts was wearing a practice jersey with No. 2 on the back.

Senior running back Kyree Koonce was back on the practice field with his teammates for the first day of camp. Koonce missed the Mustangs' last seven games last season after breaking his leg in an October 5 win against Charlottesville.

"It's an amazing feeling to know that you're back out here doing the thing that you love, playing this game," Koonce said after practice.

Koonce ran drills with the first-team offense on Thursday, but did sit out some reps. Woody said Koonce spent much of his down-time following the injury focusing on academics, and is still working to get back into football shape.

"I would say he's about 95 percent," Woody said. "And a lot of that is, "Let's get out here, and let's run around, and let's get a feel for it." And after that first week I think it will be confidence in the mind. Knowing that, "Hey, I can do what I used to do, and everything is going to be okay.'"

"My ankle felt really great today," said Koonce. "It was the first time it felt this great, I didn't have any pain while I was doing anything. So I think it's really where it needs to be now."

Koonce was almost unstoppable for Monticello before getting hurt last season, piling up 677 rushing yards, 152 receiving yards, and 13 total touchdowns in the Mustangs' first five games.

And the running back says his focus is returning to the game field for the Mustangs on September 5, when Monticello opens the season at home against George Wythe.

"I'm looking forward to it a lot, because I feel like I still have a lot to prove to a lot of people," he said. "A lot of people say I couldn't do a lot of stuff I did before, against teams that were out of conference. So I just want to show them that I can do the same thing, plus more against teams in the conference."

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