MADISON, Fla. -- The sights and sounds of football were definitely in the air Tuesday afternoon at Madison County High.

From the sound of pads colliding to the bodies being blocked to the ground, football was in its finest form in Madison.

Though the start of the 2001 football season is a little over 2 1/2 weeks off, the Cowboys have been at this football thing for quite some time. MCHS is hopeful that a strong summer spent in the strength and conditioning program will carry them back to the state playoffs and beyond.

"They worked real hard this summer. It's the best summer program we've ever had," head coach Randy McPherson said. "Up to now I don't know if we've ever been any harder behind. We've got a long way to go.

"We've got a real close team. They've been together and they've played together."

McPherson has been especially pleased with the work of the defense, which returns seven starters.

"The linebacker play has been very good," he said.

"The defense is way ahead of the offense. They've been playing really well in camp and this week. It's been real hard to get the ball moving on them. Our defense is good competition."

That experience has complicated life for the Cowboy offense, which has to replace all 11 starters from the 2000 team that went 12-1 and fell at Marianna in the Class 2A quarterfinals in overtime.

The newcomers on offense are far from inexperienced though. Most were either backups or received considerable playing time in other capacities last season.

"I think we've still got a chance to run the ball with the running backs we've got," McPherson said. "They've got a lot of experience. But it is a young team. We've only got 14 seniors."

Sometimes younger is better.

The Cowboys certainly hope so.

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