MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WWBT) - For the first time in nearly 15 months, we get a high school football Friday night in Central Virginia. Man, does it feel good to write that.
Area teams have been hitting the practice fields since February 4 preparing for the delayed 2020 season. Unfortunately, some wet weather forced many Chesterfield County football squads to relocate temporarily to the turf at River City Sportsplex, including Manchester and Monacan, which will clash on Friday in our first On the Sidelines Game of the Week of the season. A handful of rivals practicing at the same site- certainly not the most bizarre thing we’ve seen this season.
“It kind of defines what this past year has brought us,” noted Manchester head coach Tom Hall.
“I think Coach Hall would agree- anything that gets these kids on the field, we’re all for,” Monacan head coach Jim Henderson added.
Each small step this season has been a milestone, a chance to move forward in a process towards a sense of normalcy, and this week that small step is game week.
“The kids, they don’t care what it is. Just let them compete and go against each other,” said Henderson. “That’s the exciting part is just getting them out there and letting these guys have the opportunity to play.”
“It just feels good to just be back,” Lancer junior running back Ramon Brown said. “It’s been a year since we actually touched the field so it just feels good to be back.”
The two rivals open up their respective schedules on Friday with Manchester looking for its third straight win of the series. The Lancers will look to take down an experienced Monacan squad, though neither team will have any fresh game film to examine.
“Maybe you can go to sleep a little bit earlier because, hey, you don’t have anything else to watch,” Henderson joked. “Or maybe it keeps you up all night trying to wonder how big their O’s are compared to your X’s.”
“They have most of their team back from that year (2019) and so it’s a huge challenge for us right off the bat to play a tough team like Monacan,” pointed out Hall.
The Manchester head coach is leading the youngest group he’s ever had in the program. Sophomore Cody Shelton takes the reins as the Lancers’ starting quarterback, opposite Monacan senior Tyler Hensley.
“It’s always going to be a good game, no matter what either team looks like,” said Hensley. “I think we’re going to want to hit them as much as they want to hit us, but I think it’ll be a good game and I’m excited for it.”
“No one’s promised tomorrow,” Hall said about what he and his staff preach to his younger players. “You don’t know how this thing’s going to turn and you hope for the best, but you just never know when your last play is going to be, so take advantage of every opportunity that you’re given.”
The next opportunity is Friday, when the Chiefs and Lancers hit the field at Manchester for a football game after a long wait.
“There’s nothing like Friday night football,” Hall said. “Having a chance to play on our home field, even though it’s in front of small crowd, it’s my happy place.”
“You don’t realize how much you miss something until it’s gone,” added Henderson. “Now that it’s coming back, I think just every day we’re not taking anything for granted, just going out here and having fun.”
Monacan and Manchester kick off on Friday at 7:00 PM. Area teams can play a six game regular season schedule during the condensed season, with four rounds of playoffs to follow.
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