WCIA — The sounds of football are finally back at high schools across the state. The first day of official practice kicked off Wednesday, with the first games of this one of a kind spring season just 16 days away. It’s a landmark for so many, who thought this day would never come.
“There were some dark days for sure,” Maroa-Forsyth head coach Josh Jostes said. “I’d love to tell you I stayed positive all the time but I didn’t.”
“I just had hope no matter what,” Maroa-Forsyth senior running back Bryson Boes said. “Sometimes hopes where really good, then next thing you know they went really bad. I tried to stay positive the entire time.”
That was one of the things that made Wednesday so much sweeter for Maroa-Forsyth and Monticello. For both, it was the first time since October they were able to practice as a full team.
“To be out here, it’s really been 18 months since you’ve had an official practice, it’s a little weird,” Sages head coach Cully Welter said. “It’s almost like being a new teacher or a new coach for me.”
“I did think we’d have a season or at least a couple, so I tried staying in shape,” Sages senior wide receiver Hayden Graham said. “Now it’s really getting back to learning the plays again.”
Both teams only have a few weeks of practice before their first games of the season. That’s shorter than usual to ramp up for a season, when you consider they didn’t have any summer contact days, but both coaches and players believe they’ll be ready.
“There’s going to be all sorts of obstacles this year and that’s one of them,” Welter added. “We’re just approaching it as we’re going to adapt and have as much fun as we can, try and get some experience for some kids for next year and let the seniors have as much fun as possible.”
“My coach that’s in charge of my pregame stuff texted me and said, ‘You’d better hurry up because they’re about ready to start on their own,'” added Jostes. “That’s great, that’s what it’s all about. Letting the kids have fun and letting them go out on their own terms.”
Another unique challenge is the fact basketball season is still ongoing. It means several multi-sport athletes are having to balance playing both at the same time. The IHSA requires football players to participate in practice on 12 different days before playing in their first game. Athletes already playing another sport need to participate in practice on 10 different days prior to their first contest.