ST. CLAIR COUNTY -- High school football practices in St. Clair County officially began for the 2020 season July 27 after teams had been quarantined for all of spring and part of the summer due to COVID-19.
Ragland High School head football coach Derrick Sewell tried his best to utilize his players' time at home by having virtual meetings during which the team would learn the playbook and was assigned workouts to do at home to prepare for the first week of practice.
“We're going to be a very young football team. We don't have a lot of numbers, but we went every day last week. We’ve got a lot of good energy,” Sewell said.
“We've got a lot of learning and knowledge established, which is good for our young guys because they're kind of forced into a position where they have to start learning. We're going to take our growing pains, but I do believe that it's going to benefit us by mid- to late-season."
Normally, teams would be able to utilize spring practice and spring jamborees to see their players compete in full uniform. This typically helps coaches figure out how they need to prepare their new team for the upcoming season.
However, teams in Alabama were not allotted this time in order to prevent the spread of the virus and enhance social distancing. Moody head coach Adam Wallace especially felt this with his team as he has seniors who have never played before.
“In the spring, you have a chance to see the guys on your team full speed, and we had a game scheduled for the spring (but weren’t) able to play it,” he said. “So, usually, you have a lot of film on your guys that are coming up, and so that has definitely changed kind of where we're at as a football team.”
Wallace said he looks forward to going into his second week of practice, when his players will have a more contact-based work.
“We had a great first week, but it wasn't a whole lot different than what we had done most of the summer,” he said. “So, starting today (Aug. 3), we get to go in shells, so it'll be a little more contact included in a little shorter practice today but a little more physical as well.”
St. Clair County head coach Brooks Dampeer kicked off his first practice with his players in pads Monday after completing their first week of practice prior.
“The first day was kind of like the first day of spring (practice). You had to remember, we hadn't had spring, so the kids were excited yesterday, and it was good to have the pads back on, but a lot of similarities to the first day of spring for sure,” said Dampeer.
“I told the kids, you got to control what you could control. The kids have been very resilient, and they learn to adapt to what we're having to to do guideline wise.
“Everybody's on the same playing field; nobody had the spring (to practice). So we're just taking one day at a time and getting better each day.”
Even though football as a full contact sport will be allowed for the 2020 season, COVID-19 guidelines have been put into place by the Alabama High School Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Some of the main guidelines put into place by the NFHS are as follows:
Cloth face coverings are permissible, however, plastic shields covering the entire face (unless integrated into the face mask and attached to the helmet and clear without the presence of any tint) shall not be allowed during the contest;
Charged timeouts will be extended to a maximum of 2 minutes in length;
It will be permissible for more than one coach to be involved in the conference and for technology (headsets) to be used;
The intermission between periods (first/second and third/fourth quarters), as well as the time period following a try, successful field goal or safety and prior to the succeeding free kick will also be extended to a maximum of two minutes;
Only one captain from each team may be present at the coin toss with the referee and umpire. The same procedure will be utilized for overtime; and
The team (players only) box will be extended on both sides of the field to the 10-yard lines (coaches will continue to be restricted to between the 25 yard-lines) in order for more social-distancing space for teams.
The following are NFHS best practices:
Individuals should maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times while in the team box;
Individuals should not share uniforms, towels and other apparel and equipment;
The ball should be cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest as recommended by the ball manufacturer. Ball handlers should maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times during the contest;
Officials may use an electronic whistle and wear cloth face coverings;
All individuals, including each player and official when brought out on the field during timeouts, should have their own beverage container;
Suspend handshakes during the coin toss, pregame and postgame;
Players, coaches, team personnel and game administration officials should wash and sanitize their hands as often as possible;
Gloves and cloth face coverings are permissible for all coaches, team staff and game administration officials;
Non-essential personnel should be restricted from the field during the contest; and
If available, dressing facilities for game officials and teams should be large enough for them to use social distancing protocols and should be properly cleaned and sanitized prior to their arrival.