Local teams ready for football season

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Dominique Martinez-Powell | @dmartinez_powell.photography

Carbondale High School Terrier football team takes a water break during practice Aug. 19, 2021, in Carbondale, Ill. The students have been working hard in hopes for a smooth season. Coach Bryan Lee said, “We just survived this crazy spring of football right at the edge of winter. Theoretically, right now, perfect world, fingers crossed, that the athletic schedule here will look normal. Kids are in the building, we’re playing a normal schedule.”

By Ryan Scott, Sports Editor

After COVID-19 forced the delay of the 2020 fall football season, high schools in Illinois had to wait to play until the spring. Now they are facing a shortened offseason as they prepare to kickoff their seasons in August.

Marion Defensive Coordinator Jason Dunning said  COVID-19 is still affecting his team at this point, as the school takes as many precautions as it can “in fear of losing a player or losing a coach” to the COVID situation.

“I thought we got kind of clear, and we were in the open,” he said. “We got to summer, no masks, we’re able to kind of do everything as normal used to be and now I feel like we are headed right back in with literally every hour, potentially something could happen.”

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Bryan Lee, the head coach for Carbondale Community High School football, said COVID-19 is still negatively affecting the Terriers.

“These kids who’ve been isolated, it’s been a lot for them. So, we have more numbers than we’ve had in a long time, that is because a lot of kids are looking for something to do. So in some ways it’s been good. I think Covid has brought more kids out to try something,” Lee said.

However, the school is still “suffering from kids who struggled academically during the quarantine, during remote learning,” Lee said.

”Trying to get those kids’ grades right and kind of get them back on the path they need to be on, so that’s been a challenge,” he said

Marion football Head Coach Taylor Perry said the Wildcats had to shut down for almost two weeks due to positive tests this summer.

““We’re trying to build a little more depth everywhere. Just in case, the guys go down. You know it’s something people always got to do in case of injuries, but it’s a little more prevalent now with quarantines,” Perry said

Dunning said he thinks playing in the spring actually helped their starting quarterback Hunter Simmons get a scholarship to play with the SIU football team.

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“He was a kid that really didn’t have a lot of interest, and was planning on going the JUCO route. He ended up having such a tremendous season that he started getting some looks and got some offers. Then all of a sudden, SIU jumped on board, and he went from potentially heading to Joliet to play JUCO ball at College of Dupage, and now is on scholarship at SIU,” Dunning said.

Lee said he didn’t think the spring season felt normal with all the restrictions that the teams were under.

“It was really great for our seniors to play their final season, but in a lot of ways it just didn’t feel like real football, and we’re still in masks, we’re socially distanced. There’s just a lot of it and, like I said, kids were ineligible and that hurt us,” Lee said

Perry said he thinks the spring season was a negative for Illinois players recruitment.

“I think it definitely hurt. Some of the seniors in Illinois, a lot of fall out of the colleges that already signed kids and they didn’t get to have a season on film,” he said

Perry said  they are aware of potential burnout of athletes that played other sports into the summer and didn’t start contact practices until mid-July.

Dunning said his team is taking extra precautions to limit contact.“We’re planning on going into the first game, with taking one or two extra buses to try to space the kids out,” he  said.

Players will use locker rooms in waves to limit indoor contact, he said.

All three coaches said staff and players are always wearing masks inside.

After an undefeated 6-0 spring, the Marion Wildcats are kicking off their season against the Herrin Tigers, who went 3-2 in the spring. The game is scheduled  in Marion on Saturday, Aug. 28.

The Carbondale Terriers, who went 2-4 in the spring, will open the season on Aug. 27 with a trip to Murphysburo to take on the Murphysburo/Elverado Red Devils.

Sports editor Ryan Scott can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @ryanscott134

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