New Normal

September 8, 2020 Cranberry Local Sports

Freeport head football coach John Gaillot talks to players while wearing a mask after practice during preseason camp. Everything is different now in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as school administrators, coaches and players have to be diligent about following COVID-19 protocols. Seb foltz/butler eagle

Masks on.

Keep your distance.

Watch your numbers.

High school football, welcome to the new normal.

“We do what we have to do,” Butler coach Eric Christy said. “At least we’re playing.”

They may not be playing in front of many — if any — in the stands on Friday nights. But people may see the games through creative means.

Christy said Butler may set up pods on campus, show the games via live stream on the sides of buildings.

Even the Butler Area Midget Football League teams are adhering to the COVID-19 protocols these days.

“We don’t let more than 12 kids in the room at a time to review film,” Butler Blue coach Dave Patton said.

During his team’s photo day, Knoch coach Brandon Mowry scheduled his players in the gym for mug shots in groups of 20 at a time.

Even then, they were lining up six feet apart for social distancing.

“We’re not taking any chances,” Mowry said. “We adhere to every rule, every day.”

Freeport coach John Gaillot and his saff do the same.

“None of our coaches are ever on the field without a mask on,” Gaillot said. “If the kids don’t have their helmets on, they’re wearing their masks.”

Mars coach Scott Heinauer said his players are adapting to protocols never seen before.

“Starting at the end of June, we were going for an hour and a half three days a week. We did the temperature checks, social distancing and wore the masks every day,” Heinauer said.

“In the beginning, it was different, but the kids got used to it. They’ve adapted to it. Kids are resilient.

“We want to make this as smooth of a transition as we can,” he added.

A reduced schedule is better than no schedule, after all.

“Taking everything into consideration, with the pandemic, the fact we are having a season, I’m grateful for that,” North Catholic coach Patrick O’Shea said. “An abbreviated season is better than no season. It’s a blessing.

“There is going to be more pressure on everybody. With not as many games, teams will feel more urgency to play well every week.”

Seneca Valley already lost Friday’s scheduled opener against North Allegheny after having a player come into contact with somebody who may have contracted COVID-19.

Regardless, SV coach Ron Butschle said his team‘s knowledge of the game improved during the off-season.

“Thanks to technology, we were able to meet virtually by position and taught by watching film,” Butschle said. “If there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s that our guys have a higher fooball IQ. Once we did get together, the teaching was done and it was just a matter of doing.

“What we missed was that daily interaction with each other in the weight room.”

Karns City coach Joe Sherwin said the Gremlin coaches wipe down and sanitize all weight room equipment after each session. The locker room is sanitized once a day as well.

“The coaches wipe down the weight room equipment every time a group of kids are finished working out,” Sherwin said. “Our maintenance people sanitize everything again at the end of each day.”

Karns City’s coaches test the players every day for fever, cough, shortness of breath, vomiting and whether they’ve come into contact with anyone who potentially has COVID-19.

“We have sent kids home, but for precautions if they’re feeling ill during a workout,” Sherwin said. “We’ve had no COVID issues, though. They always come back healthy the next day.

“It took a few weeks for the kids to get used to the new protocols, but it’s pretty standard now.”

Sherwin added that Clarion is wearing helmets with shields this season, “but we don’t have any.”