Senior wide receiver Luke Martens jogs off the Apple Valley football practice field and back to the school, the sun setting in the west. It's a quicker exit than the leisurely stroll of the regular season in September.
In 12 hours, Martens' alarm will be sounding before the sun rises again. He will be in the YMCA gymnasium by 5:30 a.m., getting in an hour workout for the upcoming basketball season before his school day starts.
Martens' schedule is commonplace for Apple Valley's football program as its season extends into the middle of November for the second consecutive year by reaching the Class 5A state tournament. The Eagles faced defending state champion Elk River in the semifinals Friday. Basketball practice starts Monday.
Coach Chad Clendening's squad is built on multi-sport athletes. Of 27 seniors on the roster, 24 have lettered in another sport. Six have served as captains in those sports.
"In our building, our program, we really value multi-sport athletes," Clendening said. "Our senior class is very strong. They are a throwback group."
Ten players from that group were starters as sophomores, and many contributed to special teams at that time. Five others became full-time starters as juniors.
"We all love every sport we participate in," Martens said. "We get to bond with each other year-round. We are a close family."
It's a senior group that has the younger players looking up to them, and following in their footsteps. There are basketball, hockey, baseball and lacrosse players as well as skiers, wrestlers and tracksters throughout the entire roster.
"Our players embrace a leadership role," Clendening said. "Our seniors set a good example of what we want our players to be — competitive, good students and good citizens. They are exemplary in that regard."
It doesn't hurt that the basketball players and wrestlers won state championships last winter, and will be favored to do so again the following months.
"Competing at a high level carries benefits. It carries over into the next season," Clendening said. "What makes these guys so good is their unselfishness and a true sense of team."
The football team might not have as much individual star power as basketball, with highly coveted Tre Jones, and wrestling, with acclaimed heavyweight Gable Steveson, but it is cut from the same cloth. Jones is headed to Duke while Steveson is staying home with the Gophers.
"The only thing our players care about is the outcome, and not who gets the credit," Clendening said.
The 6-4, 188-pound Martens, a Winona State University basketball signee, applies his on-the-court fundamentals to football as well.
"There are a few analogies we use for me as a receiver," Martens said. "Blocking a defensive player is just like blocking out to get a rebound in basketball. And, going up and getting the ball at its highest point as a receiver is just like going up and grabbing a rebound."
That's why Martens excels at fade patterns.
"If we throw a fade route, it's up to me to go up and get the ball. That's my job," said Martens, who had 24 catches for 441 yards and seven touchdowns through 11 games.
Martens broke the fibula in his left leg during the seventh game of the football season a year ago but was on the court for the Eagles' basketball opener less than two months later.
Despite the injury, "it was so much fun playing football last year," Martens said. "Football is so different because you don't have one person to look up to or count on. We all need to do our job to be successful."
This season has been the Eagles' best since winning the Class AA championship in 1993. There were five classes at that time (AA, A, B, C and Nine-Man).
"Playing football is something I will never forget," Martens said. "I've been able to become close friends with so many more people. It's a large brotherhood."