After long wait, high school football teams open official practices

Manchester hits field as high school football practices kick off

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WWBT) - After a fall that saw local stadiums silent, the sights and sounds of high school football returned on Thursday, as teams all across the commonwealth kicked off official practices ahead of the postponed 2020 season.

“It’s like Christmas morning,” said Manchester head coach Tom Hall. “The anticipation has been just so great and just being able to come out here and actually have a chance to have a football season, it feels fantastic.”

“Back in the fall we got our season cancelled and we were all sad about it,” added senior offensive lineman Tyleek McCoy. “To be out here back in our helmets, ready to be back in pads next week, it’s exciting.”

While the game of football is the same, holding a preseason camp in February has its differences. Instead of working out in the hot August sun, a crisp Virginia winter provides a backdrop to practices.

“It is mad different,” smiled McCoy. “Usually we don’t bring out the sweatpants and the jackets until playoff time, but you see around, it’s out here early.”

The experiences of the last eleven months have made these players appreciate the game they love more than before. Having their fall campaign delayed was difficult, but they also watched fellow student-athletes who play spring sports have their season stripped away, which was tough for the seniors especially.

“They saw a lot of their friends last year who played spring sports get those taken away,” Hall noted. “I think they just feel very grateful for the opportunity to be able to play their senior season.”

Coaches are doing everything they can to make sure that this season can be played uninterrupted. Hall and his staff are preaching safety to their players and taking every necessary precaution to help get a full schedule in the books.

“Make sure we have a mask on wherever we go,” McCoy said. “Nowadays most of us will just be in our rooms playing a game and doing some homework.”

“We’re actually videotaping our practice so that we can be able to pinpoint if a kid comes into contact with someone with COVID,” Hall said. “You go around and look at all the stations, we have cleaner. Kids are wearing masks, coaches are wearing masks.”

So will players approach the season with the same focus and intensity that comes with a regular fall campaign? Hall thinks so, especially due to the condensed six game schedule teams are playing.

“They know that if you slip up in one game, you’re not going to have a chance to make the playoffs,” the Lancers’ head coach said. “I think that every game, the six games in our regular season, every game’s a playoff.”

Manchester is coming off of a 2019 season that saw it finish 11-2 and advance to the Region 5B championship. Hall points out that the roster is younger than the Lancers have seen in a bit, carrying only 13 seniors, though the excitement and athletic ability are there for success. Jordan Smith and Cody Shelton will battle for the starting quarterback spot and the team has several position areas that Hall considers strong, such as the offensive and defensive lines, backfield and skill positions.

The Lancers kick off their season on February 26, hosting Monacan.

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