GILMER -- Jeff Traylor is entering his 15th season as head coach of the Gilmer Buckeyes. But even after all this time, he never grows tired of the first official day of workouts.

"When you don't have that feeling anymore it's probably time to do something else," said Traylor near the end of Gilmer's first official practice of the 2014 season Monday night at Buckeye Stadium. "I'll go be a principal or something, I don't know. You can't do what we do if that fire's not burning."

While most high schools prefer to shake off the rust of the summer layoff with early-morning workouts, it seems fitting that Gilmer chooses to step foot onto the field for the first time in a new season under the lights. After all, few teams in all of East Texas have had as much success as Gilmer beneath the glow.

"It's great, just to get back under these lights," said Gilmer senior quarterback McLane Carter. "It's the best time of the year for me and lot of these other guys; we live for it."

For some Gilmer players, they will move on to even brighter lights, bigger stadiums and larger audiences as part of the national craze that is major college football. And yet, high school football at a place like Gilmer still has a powerful draw.

"I'm just happy," said Gilmer running back/defensive back Kris Boyd, one of the nation's top recruits. "I've got nothing but love for my family and friends. To be back out here with everybody, it's just a blast."

There wasn't much to discern from the first practice, which was devoid of contact drills. But overall, Traylor was generally upbeat about what he saw Monday.

"A lot of engery, a lot of excitement and a lot of new kids getting their turn to do it," Traylor said. 'We lost a lot of great players, three-year starters -- Tanner Barr, Josh Walker, Devondrick Dixon, Jaidon Parrish -- and that's just to name a few. Those were big losses, but we've got other good players in Gilmer. There will be other kids step up and we're excited about watching that, and I expect to have another good football team."

Gilmer will enter the 2014 season on a short list of favorites for the Class 4A Division II state championship, which would be the program's third under Traylor. The players understand the expectation, but know they must do more than show up on Friday nights.

Gilmer QB McLane Carter. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

"We have high expectations, but we've got to push ourselves also," said Boyd, who led Gilmer with 1,191 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns last season. "We're not going to come out here and expect to be the best; we're going to come out here and work to be the best. We're going to put forth the effort."

Boyd (6-1, 180) has been busy during the summer, juggling college visits with Gilmer's 7-on-7 run to the state tournament and a trip to Oregon for Nike's The Opening, a combine for the nation's very best high school recruits.

And while he admits being blessed to be in that situation, Boyd is relishing the opportunity to get back to football in Gilmer as he enters his senior year.

"When I'm home I worry about my team and talk to my coaches, and enjoy the time I have before I do go leave for college," he said.

Boyd said being a part of the Gilmer program has helped his development and maturity as a player, perhaps more so than if he were attending another school.

"It's a blessing and you've got to take advantage of that," he said. "We're blessed to have coaches that actually care and want to see kids be successful, and also be there for them."

Carter, the younger brother of former Gilmer star and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback G.J. Kinne, left Gilmer following his sophomore season and played quarterback for Salado as a junior.

He's happy to be back.

"Salado had their good things, but Gilmer's tradition in football … it's just a great place to play football," Carter said. "With all the great players here, you're just surrounded by athletes that are being highly recruited. That helps you too because they'll come and watch and maybe somebody will see you. And then you're on their board, so it's awesome."

And while Traylor knows he only has more year to coach players like Boyd and Carter, there's a good chance the veteran coach will see them both down the road. Gilmer's past standouts annually make a habit out of returning to where it all began.

"We've been very blessed through the years," Traylor said. "They all stay in touch, and a lot of that probably has to do with the continuation of the coaching staff; we haven't had hardly any change in 15 years, so the kids really feel like they belong to it."

Gilmer has two preseason scrimmages -- Whitehouse on Aug. 15 and Kilgore on Aug. 21 -- before opening the season against Liberty-Eylau on Aug. 28 in Tyler.

Gilmer players go through workouts during the first official practice of the 2014 season on Monday night at Buckeye Stadium. (ETSN.fm)