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COVID or not, back to work

by MARK NELKE
Sports Editor | August 11, 2020 1:00 AM

CHS, Lake City football teams begin practices for 2020 season

The first day of football practice at Coeur d’Alene High School looked like any other first day of practice.

Except, of course, for the coaches and some of the players sporting face coverings.

But, compared to many other high school and college sports teams, which have postponed their fall seasons to the spring, fall sports practice for Idaho high school teams started on Monday — as scheduled.

“Actually, it went a lot better than I anticipated,” Coeur d’Alene football coach Shawn Amos said. “Kids adapt pretty quickly to stuff — the masks, those helmets with the splash shields we have on them, it makes it a whole lot easier. They just want to play football, so they’ll do whatever they have to do to play football.”

Likewise at Lake City High ...

“Those kids are so fired up to be out there, they’re really happy,” Timberwolves coach Brian Fulp said. “Even after conditioning, and a tough practice, and it being hot out, you could tell, coaches and players, everybody was happy.

“That’s what I kept telling them — if you’re tired, just remember the last seven months when you didn’t have to do anything.”

At Post Falls High, which has a COVID-19 specific waiver athletes are required to sign before practicing, Monday was an administrative day — the Trojans’ first football practice is slated for today.

“We wanted to make sure we did everything we can to educate the kids on this COVID thing,” Trojans coach Blaine Bennett said, “and make sure they know what the expectations are with face masks and social distancing, and what it’s going to look like, because its going to be different.”

Monday was also the first allowed day of practice for other fall sports programs in Idaho — volleyball, boys and girls soccer, cross country and swimming.

Schedules for all fall sports teams have had to be modified somewhat, after Washington chose to postpone its fall sports seasons to the spring.

North Idaho teams play several eastern Washington teams in most sports, with football schedules taking the biggest hit.

Coeur d’Alene’s football team was scheduled to open a week earlier than everyone else, vs. East High of Anchorage, Alaska, on Aug. 21. But the Alaska team had to cancel when the start date to its season was pushed back, so now the Vikings aren’t scheduled to open until Sept. 4, vs. Sandpoint.

The openers for the other 5A and 4A District 1 teams in the Inland Empire League weren’t affected. Post Falls is set to play at Sandpoint on Aug. 28, and Lakeland will travel to Lake City on Aug. 28.

Kootenai County remains in Stage 4 in Gov. Brad Little’s Idaho Rebounds plan. But Ada County (Boise area) was returned to Stage 3, and first practice for schools in that area were pushed back to Aug. 17.

And with Holt Arena in Pocatello not allowing high school football games to be played there this fall, that has left some eastern Idaho teams scrambling to find alternate sites to play.

“Kids, they need this stuff, they need to be out here running around,” Amos said. “If they say we can play, we’ll play, and if they say we can’t, we can’t. I obviously don’t have any say in the process. If they say we’re going to go, we’re going to go.”

Players have their temperatures taken before every practice, and precautions are taken if players show symptoms of the COVID.

Coeur d’Alene and Lake City plan to have splash guards on their helmets, where the face masks are.

High school sports in Idaho have been on hold since mid-March, when they were shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The stoppage kept Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls from competing against other area schools in the Border League camp in June. Lake City also had a different team camp scheduled during that time which was canceled, as well as a week of practice without pads, after the conclusion of spring sports and just prior to school letting out.

Coeur d’Alene did its own team camp in late July, but cut back on the contact and live reps to help guard against injury, with it being so close to the start of fall camp.

“It was kind of nice to focus on yourself,” Amos said. “When you go to a camp, you get competitive, want to try to win camp, so to speak, and we didn’t have to worry about that at all.”

Fulp and Bennett chose not to have a camp for just their teams this summer, because of the timing.

“We have so many kids who are in basketball and wrestling and baseball, and to put a group together just to go out and say you did, I didn’t think we were going to benefit that much,” Bennett said. “Once that (the Border League camp) was canceled, I just didn’t feel comfortable finding another week where we’d get everybody there — coaches and players. I didn’t think there was a week we could pull that off and gain from it.”

With the locker rooms closed to players to prevent such gatherings in tight quarters indoors, Amos said Viking practices will be different.

Usually there’s a morning session, followed by a lunch break and then by a shortened afternoon session. Now, they’ll do their lifting, meetings and practice in one longer chunk.

“Usually we practice, take a break, have meetings, let ’em get a little food in ’em, then have another practice,” Amos said. “So we’ve had to eliminate that break; now we have just one long practice.”

Bennett said the Trojans still plan to practice twice if possible, with a meal break in the middle.

“For us, that meal’s a big deal; sometimes that’s the only meal some of our kids get,” he said. “We make sure we feed ’em every day, we give them that grab-and-go lunch that has some breakfast and some lunch in it, so they get a pretty good meal every day.”

Turnout for football has actually been higher at Coeur d’Alene, Lake City and Post Falls this season, coaches reported.

Amos estimated roughly 165 players turned out for all four grades, including 50 sophomores and 65 freshmen.

Lake City, on the rise after a few lean years, had nearly 80 out for the varsity and JV teams, as well as another 30 freshmen.

Bennett estimated around 100 varsity and JV players at Post Falls, and another 50 freshmen.

He said he had no idea what the higher turnouts meant, during these uncertain times.

Except for ...

“That means we better have enough helmets, I know that,” he said.

In any event, coaches are happy to be back to coaching — for however long that lasts.

“I know it’s an evolving, day-to-day deal,” Bennett said. “Things could change at any minute.”

“It’s nice to be on schedule,” Fulp said. “As long as I feel that we can safely do it, and the kids are safe, and families are safe, then I feel like we’re doing the right thing. I’m still not sold on the fact that we’ll have a season, or a couple of games, or whatever it is, because there’s still so many variables. ... but we are taking care of the things we can take care of.

“We’re going to follow all the rules, be as safe as we can, and hope we get to play.”

photo

MARK NELKE/Press

Coaches sport face coverings Monday during the first day of football practice at Coeur d’Alene High School. From left, Viking assistants Colin Donovan and Corey Brown, head coach Shawn Amos and assistant coach Dustin Shafer.