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Summer workouts: As PV’s new faces put in sweat, Nix wants AHSAA to trust coaches

Pleasant Valley football

Pleasant Valley spent Thursday going through summer workouts.

PLEASANT VALLEY — The Alabama High School Athletic Association is expected to announce updated COVID-19 guidelines in July. Coaches have their opinions.

Pleasant Valley head football coach Jonathan Nix has a simple suggestion … trust coaches.

“There are so many coaches that use common sense throughout,” he said. “And I know that we have some that maybe go overboard on stuff, but, all in all, every coach has got the kids’ interests at heart.

“Trust them, and I think they’re starting to do this. Trust the local school board and the principals and coaches are going to manage.”

Pleasant Valley athletes wrapped up their third week of summer workouts Thursday. The AHSAA allowed the resumption of team activities as early as June 1 after a near-three-month shutdown over the pandemic, and the Raiders started June 2.

Thursday saw Pleasant Valley’s male athletes working during the early morning session, starting at 7 a.m. Female athletes started at 9, after coaches had a half-hour to sanitize equipment.

A sign with five questions greeted all Pleasant Valley athletes who parked in the lot adjacent to the football stadium, fieldhouse and weight room.

“Do you have … a fever? A cough. A sore throat? Shortness of breath? Contact with COVID?” the sign said.

Pleasant Valley assistant principal Jeremy Wallace greeted them all with a thermometer, and each coach worked with a group of 12 athletes that rotated through different work stations on campus.

The hardest part for athletes? Social distancing.

“It’s been weird, because we haven’t been able to be as close to each other,” senior safety Justin Winningham said. “We have to stay separated.”

As COVID-19 resurges in Alabama and other states, the Raiders try to chase off back-of-mind worries.

“I’m really concerned, because I want a scholarship for football, somewhere in college, and I’m concerned because it’s my senior year,” said senior linebacker Caleb Ramsey, an All-Calhoun County pick in 2019. “I want to spend it with these guys.”

Pleasant Valley lost 13 seniors from their second straight 5-5 team, which came one victory short of making the playoffs in Class 3A’s brutal Region 6. Pleasant Valley accomplished back-to-back seasons with a .500-or-better record for the first time since 2007 and '08 and the third time in program history, dating back to 1982.

Nine of the Raiders’ 14 all-county players were seniors, including quarterback Brody Phillips, running back Colton East, tight end Colby Nelson, offensive lineman Cole Proper and defensive lineman Jonathan Evans. East, Nelson, Proper and Evans were first-team picks.

“There’s a lot of new faces that have to come through,” Nix said. “Some of these kids that was our junior class last year and are going to be seniors this year, that’s going to be a good class.

“The classes behind have to keep growing.”

Reigning 3A champion Piedmont figures to be the favorite in Pleasant Valley’s realigned region. What’s now Region 5 lost playoff teams Randolph County and B.B. Comer, but picked up 4A move-down Hokes Bluff and 2A move-up Ohatchee, which made a 3A semifinal run among 3A playoff appearances in 2016 and 2017.

Region play never gets easier for the Raiders, but the toughest opponent might be resurgent COVID-19.

“It’s tough,” Nix said. “You’ve just got to look at every day as an opportunity. Right now, we’ve got an opportunity to be a blessing for these kids, and these kids have an opportunity to be a blessing for each other and us. You just have to go with that.

“Let tomorrow’s worries be tomorrow’s worries, and just hope it’s on today.”

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.