MARION -- The term "triskaidekaphobia" isn't used in everyday language but seems to pop up in trivia quite a bit. It's a word used to define the fear of the number 13.
The Marion High School football team can't afford any triskaidekaphobia. The Wildcats have made the playoffs 12 straight years and if they want to extend the area's longest such streak, they'll have to face the number 13 head on.
Marion opened practice Monday morning at Wildcat Stadium, taking the field for the first time like all the other Illinois high schools. The Wildcats did so under ridiculously beautiful conditions -- the temperature was in the upper 60s most of the time and the sun didn't even come out until the team broke to leave.
"It was a great day," said Marion coach Kerry Martin. "It was humid but it's not hot. We could work them hard and not have any trouble."
It was a welcome feeling after having excessive heat warnings on six of the team's eight nights of summer camp last month.
Marion went 5-5 last season and made the Class 5A playoffs despite losing its first three games. The season ended 275 miles north of home at Morris in a 48-28 dogfight -- and all Morris did was win two more games and then lose a heartbreaker in the 5A semifinals to eventual state champion Peoria.
It all starts over now.
"I get excited," said Martin, who is entering his 16th season at Marion. "I didn't sleep very good last night. A lot of things on my mind before the first practice. It's an exciting time of year."
Martin has a lot of decisions to make over the next three weeks before the season opens on Aug. 25 at Mascoutah. A bounty of players return this season, but there are a lot of holes to fill, as well.
"We lack a lot of varsity experience at some positions and that concerns me but we can't change that," Martin said. "We just have to prepare our guys in practice for the game situations they're going to face."
And having internal competition is a positive.
"That's a great thing," Martin said. "We try to play a lot of guys anyway. We want to put a lot of bodies on the field. If we have three or four guys at the same position that can contribute, that's good."
Martin said the two weeks of summer camp last month highlighted some areas, both positive and negative, that will make the official practices much better.
"I learned what we can and can't do and that's important," he said. "You have to find out the things you can do well and not try to do things you don't have the skillsets to do. Camp was a good way to evaluate the things we can do well and the things we need to maybe put aside.
"We're in a much better place today because of that."
And that first bus trip to Mascoutah will be here quickly.
"We have some strong kids and we have some speed," Martin said. "We have to utilize those things. But I feel good about what we're doing. We're just a young team and we have a huge area of growth we can achieve. So I think you'll see us get better and better every week."