The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute
Patterson High School football player Kendal Francois lifts weights this summer at the end of a workout. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association announced in a memo to schools this week that high school fall football practice can begin as scheduled on Monday.
LHSAA: Football practice begins Monday
High school fall football practice, at least, will begin Monday as planned across the state, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association announced in a memo to school leaders this week.
The move was announced by LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine Monday as officials try to take steps towards a season while also protecting players and coaches from the spread of COVID-19.
Bonine noted that the state’s Phase Two order will extend until Aug. 7, which was past the schedule Aug. 3 date for the first day of fall football practice. However, after consulting with those involved in the safe return to football, he said the decision was made to proceed with fall practice beginning Monday.
“Also know until Louisiana gets into Phase III and establishes a positive trend as it relates to the virus, the start of the regular football season, including but not limited to full contact, scrimmages, jamborees and eventually the beginning of interscholastic competitions, will inevitably be adjusted,” Bonine said in the memo.
Unlike years past, full pads will not be allowed at this time and no full contact after the routine three-day acclimation period, either. Teams can wear shorts and shoulder pads and helmets, beginning Aug. 6. Also, groups will be limited to 25 students, with multiple groups of 25 allowed if they are separated.
When the state moves to Phase Three, groupings will be increased to 50 students.
Central Catholic Coach Tommy Minton, who as a member of the state’s Football Advisory Committee has been in meetings discussing the possibility of safely returning to football activities, said, “Even though we can’t have contact, we can still do drill work. We can still do work against tackling dummies.”
He said that a critical issue is for players to get used to the heat wearing their shoulder pads beginning Aug. 6, something that can be done without contact as teams can still run drills.
The announcement is a “step in the right direction,” Berwick head coach Mike Walker said.
“It’s not where we would normally be this time of year, but it’s slowly working its way to getting back to normal, so fingers crossed we’re hoping things continue in that trend and continue moving in the right direction so we can have a season,” he said.
Patterson first-year head coach Zach Lochard was excited about the news.
“Us over here in Lumberjack country are very eager to get rolling, and this was a positive bit of information in our crazy world today,” he said.
As each school has navigated the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s summer rules while also taking precautions with COVID-19, each has managed to get work in to prepare for the season.
Walker said in addition to working out in groups of no more than 25, he said his players and staff have been participating in video meetings to prepare for the season.
While Walker said he thought they still were a little behind from where they would normally be, he thought the team has done the best they could to catch up.
Lochard said his team has gotten a lot of individual work as well as strength and condition, and his team is beginning to gel.
Minton said the work ethic and camaraderie among his team this summer is the best it’s been in about five years.
“We could tell the very first day how glad the kids were to be back and to be back with each other and back working,” he said. “Only a very limited number of them were able to work out during the quarantine, because the vast majority of them didn’t have resources to work out.”
As for any comparison of the current situation to anything in the past, Walker said it has a parallel to Hurricane Katrina, something he endured as a high school junior at John Curtis Christian School.
“It is a little bit familiar,” he said. “I think the biggest thing, though, is just the uncertainty of not knowing when you’re going to get the green light.”
Minton and Lochard had nothing they could compare to the current situation.
“This is the definition of being able to roll with the punches, being able to be flexible and not rigid and looking for the best opportunity to maximize each day that you have, and it’s a process,” Lochard said.
A message left for Morgan City head coach Chris Stroud was not returned in time for this article.