Eye of the tiger

Blue Comets participate in conditioning drills. The first official practice for the 2020 season will be this Monday.

Chanute High School football is moving right along with plans for the season, with plenty of precautions against the coronavirus pandemic. 

This week, the Blue Comets watched concussion videos, checked out their equipment and conditioned in the field behind the press box at the Chanute Community Sports Complex.

On Thursday, players eager to bang some bodies around needed to sit and watch the concussion video, which is procedural and happens every year.

“It’s just something we do every year to educate the kids on the signs and symptoms of concussions and it’s been a big emphasis with NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) and KSHSAA both to protect kids and just educate the coaches,” second-year head football coach Clete Frazell said.

After reviewing the video, coaches took a test on the information, but the student-athletes just watch the video with no test.

Senior Blake Atwood, who will be a slot receiver and cornerback, said when it comes to the concussion video, it’s all about being ready to play.

“It’s just about staying safe and staying healthy, being able to play all the games and just taking the protocols and making sure the team stays healthy,” Atwood said. “We actually watched the concussion protocol probably six times in our school career. I think it’s just staying smart, don’t lean into hits with your head and that’s about it, just stay smart and stay healthy.”

Staying healthy also includes training and conditioning the body in an effort to ramp up for the season. Frazell and his coaching staff organized players in position-specific groups, participating in football drills that will have student-athletes even more ready than in years past.

Historically, KSHSAA doesn’t allow programs to practice with an actual football this time of year. But the COVID-19 situation has altered some of the rules, which now allow programs to use the pigskin this early. 

“We’ve been working on blocking and tackling and running plays, and kids are just learning, installing the playbook, instilling things like that. Making sure kids are comfortable before we start (practice) on Monday,” Frazell said.

Part of that is knowing the players’ 40-yard dash times. The team had planned to run their 40 times this week, but crews over the last few weeks have been overlaying the complex’s track surface, making it impossible to run practices on the football field.

Still, players were able to check out their football equipment on Wednesday in the storage facility on the southeast side of the stadium. Athletes with face coverings entered the room three at a time with coaches masked up. In a world where normalcy is at a standstill for obvious reasons, Frazell was happy to do something that felt like standard operating procedure, even if everyone was doing so with a mask or gaiter on.

“I think it’s great, specifically for kids. Obviously the kids want to be out here and the coaches want to be out here because this is what we do for a living, but I think as long as we make it a safe environment to be in, it’ll be real beneficial for the kids,” Frazell said. “We talked about mental health and taking activities away from kids and what that does mental health-wise. And a lot of people out there, including myself, believe that the benefits, to me, are possibly a bigger factor. As long as we’re bringing them to a safe environment and doing everything we can to keep it safe, I think it’s awesome that they’re getting an opportunity. And I appreciate it a lot from the people who are making the decisions.”

Senior pass-catcher Garrett Almond isn’t taking for granted the moment of getting his CHS football equipment for the last time.

“It’s kind of sad because I made a lot of memories the last few years playing on this football team and great program. (It’s) just sad that at the end of the year, it’s going to be all done,” Almond said.

The first day of actual practice is Monday at 3:30 pm. Due to KSHSAA’s heat acclimation period, student-athletes will wear just their helmets and engage in hand-on-hand action on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, players will use helmets and shoulder pads to get used to the gear, but they still can’t hit. On Thursday, the team will participate in some controlled contact activities, and on Friday, players with pads on will be allowed to start tackling.

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