The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets reported for their first practice on Aug. 14, and Saturday morning they held their first intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason at Gordon Wood Stadium.

HPU third-year head coach Braxton Harris, coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, returns in the neighborhood of 30 juniors and seniors for the 2019 campaign, which has led to heightened optimism thus far. Saturday's workout did nothing to deter Harris' enthusiasm for the coming season, which begins Sept. 7 at Austin College.

“We got in a lot of good work,” Harris said following the scrimmage. “Any time there's an ebb and flow in an intrasquad scrimmage that's good. You don't want to see one side run all over the other. There were some ebbs and flows offensively and defensively and we got in some solid work with the special teams as well, so I was very pleased with how we played.”

The offense and defense each had its share of positive plays throughout the morning session.

“I thought we moved the ball well, got first downs, ran really hard and broke more tackles today than we have in a while,” Harris said. “On the other side, the defense made some good stops, we had some kids make some plays, but we need to improve tackling on the defensive side of the ball so those broken tackles don't happen on Sept. 7.”

Regarding conditioning, with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees throughout most of August, Harris feels the Yellow Jackets are headed in the right direction.

“One of the things we've been concerned about is the heat,” Harris said. “Getting our kids our there on the turf, playing in the morning, I thought it was good to see them be able to work in that heat. We've been doing that all fall camp, trying to acclimate them to the heat.”

The Yellow Jackets will take part in another intrasquad scrimmage on campus Thursday night, just nine days before the season opener.

As for Howard Payne's progress thus far, Harris said, “The thing about preseason is you don't know how good you are because you haven't played anybody. We have some guys that are banged up that have to get healthy, and they didn't scrimmage. We also held out some other guys that are going to be starters to make sure that they're healthy for Austin College.

“For those guys who were maybe 2s and got snaps with the 1s, you can't replace that experience. You can do it in practice, but it isn't the same. For them to get live reps today, that should help our football team.”