REED CITY — Jared Fuller could picture Ford Field.
The Reed City High School senior, his teammates and coaches were that close to the state finals and the pinnacle of prep football in Michigan.
The Coyotes lost to Saginaw Swan Valley in an MHSAA Division 5 state semifinal last November in a game that ended up 29-14 but turned on a couple of plays.
Those couple of plays have been on the minds of players and coaches alike since then.
And now, Reed City is doing the hard work it hopes will lead them deep in the playoffs again.
Like all prep football teams, the Coyotes are lifting weights, going to skills camps, blocking camps and 7-on-7s.
Unlike all teams, though, each Sunday in June and July — except the dead week — it's Gladiator Training.
For a little more than an hour each Sunday, the Coyotes are adjacent to their practice field flipping tractor tires, pulling and pushing tractor tires, running ladder drills on an incline, carrying five-gallon buckets full of sand and working hurdles.
It's hot and it's grueling but that extra toughness needed to complete the workout just might put them over the hump in November.
"We were that close last year," Fuller said. "We change a couple of plays and we could have made it all the way.
"Those couple of plays make us all want to be here more…grinding through it and getting better. It gets tiring but we know we can be pretty good this year."
Veteran Reed City coach Monty Price added these workouts to his team's summer training years ago and it's become a staple.
"I found it years ago," he said. "For us, it's just an alternative to focus on strength and conditioning. We the think the biggest payoff is it builds and helps develop toughness.
"The kids have to be tough to finish it. It is hard, grueling and hot. It develops that mentality that they can get through anything. That type of toughness is very important to winning football games. We remind them that what they've done, other teams probably haven't."
Gladiator training starts at 6:30 p.m. each Sunday and players were already lined up 15-20 minutes before that waiting for Price to open the gates to the practice field.
Being that eager for more than an hour of hard work says a lot.
"We've got a bunch of motivated kids," Price said. "We've had a lot of kids working hard during the offseason so far and we're just hoping that work ethic and attitude continues.
"We haven't really had to talk to them much (about motivation.) The kids realize the situation they were in (last fall) and how close they were. We're focused and that's certainly a goal of ours."
Reed City returns 17 players from last year's team that went 11-2, won a seventh straight CSAA title, a district title and the first regional crown in program history.
The Coyotes start with another big one in 2018 when they host fellow perennial powerhouse Montague on Friday, Aug. 24. The Wildcats went 11-1 last year before falling to Ithaca in a Division 6 regional title game.