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Time to get back on the field for local football programs

Summer athletics began June 1, which has led to programs across the county searching for the best path forward.

Football is one such sport set to start having practices again, but the caveat of having to limit contact between players means the practices will be anything but familiar for the athletes and coaches.

Pearl River Central Blue Devils

Football is a full contact sport that necessitates the breaking of social distancing rules in order to effectively hold practice sessions, much less a competitive game.

Now coaches are faced with the unique challenge of preparing their athletes for a collision sport without any contact between players.

The no contact rule also includes a ban on competition between schools by the MHSAA, which means seven on seven tournaments football programs would normally take part in will not take place.

“Seven on seven for us is a lot more valuable for our defense than our offense. We’re going to do the best job we can, because we can compete with each other, (to give) our defense a simulated spread look (in practice),” Owen said.

Practices will have a more fractured look due to the limit on outdoor gatherings by the state.

Because of these restrictions, Owen is planning on separating his players not only into their position groups, but also by the side of the ball they play on.

Players who are part of both the offensive and defensive units will switch groups every other day to ensure they’re getting an even education.

When it comes to sanitation procedures Owen and his staff are working to make sure everything is wiped down and clean for the athletes.

“Lysol wipes are in short supply right now, so we’re going to ask if the kids can bring one can of Lysol wipes to wipe everything down. (That way) when one group is done (the next) group can grab a sanitized bar,” Owen said.

Poplarville Hornets

Head Coach Jay Beech said his program still needs to host tryouts for students who are interested in joining the team, but it won’t have the familiar format of the past.

Beech said the tryouts will be voluntary and will be available to students who are comfortable going through sets of drills to earn a spot.

However, if a potential prospect is uneasy about the idea of taking part in the tryouts during the pandemic then the Hornets’ staff and the player will come to terms on another date for a tryouts.

“Coaches need to see who wants to play. It may not be a tryout like an old tryout, but we need to see who wants to play and get them out there,” Beech said.

Right now the plan is to host some version of a tryout in July, but that timeline is subject to change due to daily updates of information being released regarding COVID-19.

Beech said it’s important to get the tryouts done during the summer months to allow administrators plenty of time to properly construct student schedules for the start of school.

The restrictions on the amount of practices allowed this summer, combined with restrictions on practice time and contact means that this summer’s period of preparation will be unlike any other for the Hornets.

The unique challenges presented have already incentivized Beech to closely analyze his plans for the start of school.

Beech said normally after school starts scrimmaging isn’t the main priority, but since the students had months off and will now have to work under the constraints of limited contact during the summer practices, changes will have to be made to the fall game plan.

“There is a good possibility it does affect the thought process in August and we may have to condense the playbook. Normally at that point you may have a scrimmage or two, maybe you have to do more than in August (this year) to learn more about the younger players.”

“It’s going to be different than normal and we all have to do some adjusting,” Beech said.