Ravenwood coach Matt Daniels is optimistic there will be a football season as Tennessee gradually reopens its economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
The TSSAA canceled spring sports in mid-April, but Daniels hopes things will be improved in the fall.
“I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to look like, but I think it’s a good sign that some states are starting to talk about professional and college sports and the outlook for those seems pretty positive right now, so I’m going to think the same thing for high school football,” Daniels said.
TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said he doesn’t think there will be a snowball effect for high school football because it involves minors whereas pro and college sports are played by adults.
But there did seem to be a trickle-down effect in the spring when sports at all levels shut down at roughly the same time.
Williamson County football teams can begin conditioning for football on Monday. Group sizes will be limited to prevent the spread of the virus.
The county released its full list of guidelines Tuesday as to how summer activities can be held in county schools.
“They’ve already told us no groups larger than 10 in one area and that includes coaches, so we’re going to have to be creative in terms of spacing kids out around campus and gyms and all outdoor areas in order to make sure that we’re following the distancing guidelines,” Daniels said.
Daniels will advise his coaches to have masks on hand. The new normal will be different for the players.
“Normal things that we would be used to in June in terms of hitting a sled and even wearing helmets and doing some one-on-one drills and exchanging a football – those are all things that we are going to be unable to do in June,” Daniels said.
“So it’s very difficult. You have to focus on the strength and conditioning piece and then the mental side of the game. You know, make sure everybody knows their playbook because when we are able to do some of the physical contact in close proximity, hopefully in July, we’re going to have to hit the ground running.”
The Raptors return several major-college prospects from their 13-2 Class 6A runner-up team. Tight end Jake Briningstool (6-5, 215) is a Clemson commit and linebacker Junior Colson (6-2, 228) is Michigan-bound.
“We’re excited because we think we’re going to reload and make another run at Cookeville,” Daniels said.
Brentwood will use plenty of disinfectant solutions to prevent the possible spread of the virus.
“If one kid uses a barbell, it will have to be wiped of before another kid can uses it,” Bruins coach Ron Crawford said. “If you throw the football, it will have to be wiped off before another kid throws it back.”
Brentwood won’t use footballs early in the preseason, so it can focus on conditioning.
“Some of them are going to be so de-conditioned that they’ll struggle to get through just a day’s workout,” Crawford said.
Crawford wishes the TSSAA would cancel the June 22-July 5 summer dead period this year and allow workouts to help football players with conditioning since it has been difficult to do much during the pandemic.
“It sounds selfish towards football, but it’s not,” Crawford said. “If we work for three weeks (in June) and take two more weeks off, how is that going to help us prepare to practice a contact sport in the heat?”
Crawford said he wouldn’t punish players who made family vacation plans or plans to attend church camp during the dead period if they missed conditioning during that stretch.
“We play MBA, Henry County, Ravenwood, Knox Catholic, CPA,” Crawford said. “I mean, we play a killer schedule and I need my kids to be ready to play those games.”
Crawford is trying to remain positive despite the uncertainties of the pandemic.
“In my mind, teachers and coaches are missionaries of hope,” Crawford said. “So our deal is we need to be prepared for these kids when they come back because it’s important to the communities and schools. We’ve got to be hopeful.”
Football stadiums have been closed during the pandemic, but Crawford said Brentwood has run intruders from multiple schools off its artificial turf field several times.
“We’ve run personal trainers off in groups of 12 to 20 when you were supposed to have none of that going on,” Crawford said. “We have signs literally posted everywhere, ‘Facility is closed.’ ”
Brentwood posted workouts for its players on an app during spring practice and has held some Zoom meetings.
Summit plans to use masks to help keep its players safe during conditioning.
“Anytime (the players) are within six feet of each other, they’re going to have to have a mask on in order to spot in the weight room or something like that,” Spartans coach Brian Coleman said. “We ordered 100 masks for the kids and they’ll be washable, so they’ll have to wear them daily.”
Coleman said the county teams don’t want the virus to spread and cancel the season, so they’ll be overly cautious.
“I think everybody is apprehensive and worried about football season,” Coleman said. “I think everybody is excited, scared, nervous about what’s going to happen.”
The revenue from football accounts for nearly one-third of the TSSAA’s annual operating budget, according to a story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
There were over 100,00 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S., including 336 in Tennessee, through Tuesday.
“If the season doesn’t happen, I guess it would be a case of there are more things to worry about than football,” Coleman said. “We’ve got other things to think about: our families, our well-being and stuff like that, but I think everybody right now is looking for a release to get to normal. So I think football may be the first step to being normal.”
Pac-12 football teams will begin voluntary workouts on June 15 and Coleman hopes that’s a good omen for the sport.
Summit returns 13 starters from last year’s 12-3 Class 5A runner-up.
“Something’s going to fall on these kids they’ve never had and that’s high expectations and probably a target on their back,” Coleman said.
Junior twins Keaten and Destin Wade are getting plenty of interest from college coaches.
“UT has been on them a lot,” Coleman said. “Clemson calls me weekly. They have not offered yet. Keaten has got offers from Oklahoma, LSU.
“They’ve both got offers from UT, Ole Miss, South Carolina and places like that. I mean, you name it, every college has just about called us. Their name is out there. (Tuesday) Purdue called, the day before North Carolina called.”
Destin (6-3, 205) is being recruited as a dual athlete and Keaten (6-4, 215) is being looked at as an outside linebacker, according to 247 Sports.