HURRICANE — No pass routes were being run, no linemen were colliding. Heck, there wasn’t even a football to be found anywhere.
But the football team at Hurricane was back together Monday evening — even if just for an hour of conditioning work at Redskin Stadium –- to end a nearly three-month layoff of high school athletics in West Virginia because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re lucky to be out here doing what we’re doing,’’ said Redskins coach Jeremy Taylor, “considering the state of affairs in the whole country, just everything going on.’’
Putnam was one of several counties to utilize the first possible day of the Secondary School Activities Commission’s three-tiered plan to get athletes back in shape as West Virginia and the rest of the country recover from COVID-19.
Phase 1 of the SSAC’s statewide comeback plan, which runs from June 8-19, allows coaches to meet with players in groups of no more than 10 for one hour outdoors, while following social distancing guidelines. Equipment must be cleaned when it changes hands.
In Phase 2 (June 22-July 3), groups of no more than 25 can meet with coaches for two hours per day. Phase 3 encompasses the traditional three-week practice period, which for most counties, like Putnam, is set for July 6-25.
For Hurricane senior lineman Garrett Green, it was a welcome diversion — it marked the first in-person team function since weightlifting in mid-March and the first on-field work since early November. About 45 players showed up for the opening session.
“It feels pretty good,’’ Green said. “It’s nice to get back out here on this field. Today, we’ll see who’s actually been doing stuff during this break. This gate [to the field] has been locked and we haven’t gotten a chance to come out here and do anything, but I’ve still been lifting and running.’’
The first two portions of the SSAC’s plan don’t allow any sports-specific drills to be run; it’s mainly reserved for strength, conditioning and agility work.
Taylor wasn’t too worried about keeping his athletes occupied with no real football drills on the horizon.
“I let my strength coach figure that out,’’ he said with a laugh. “I just worry about the paperwork so we don’t get sued, so I don’t get fined.
“I think a lot of kids have been gone for so long they would almost come out and do the Richard Simmons workout if we’d let them. It’s one thing to hang out at Walmart, but it’s another thing to be out here on the field running around.’’
Taylor plans to have his players work out one hour a day Monday through Thursday in both weeks of Phase 1, then increase it to two hours per day heading into Phase 2, and hopefully set the stage for actual football drills in Phase 3. Preseason practice opens on Aug. 3 for football, soccer, cross country and golf.
“Hopefully, we can get a lot of stuff done,’’ Taylor said. “I’ve addressed with my staff what we’re going to do for the next three weeks, even if we’re not going to have any footballs.’’
Green doesn’t have any qualms about getting back together with his teammates, and looks forward to the payoff in Phase 3.
“You’ve just got to go with everything,’’ he said, “and trust the coaches and trust the people making these decisions to keep everybody safe. Put in the work, and it will be worth it.
“I definitely think that things will be up and running pretty soon. Even though it might not be as all-out like it used to be [in the three-week period], I’m hoping we’ll still be able to throw the ball around and hit people and stuff.’’
Taylor understands that there are no guarantees when it comes to athletics this fall, especially with a high-contact sport such as football. However, he also remains hopeful.
“It’s ups and downs,’’ he said of the long-range outlook. “It changes from one day to the next. You turn on one news channel and the world’s ending, and you turn on the next one and everything’s fine.
“In West Virginia, we’re kind of in our own little bubble, anyway. It could be a thing where West Virginia is the only state that has high school football. We’d be on ESPN The Ocho.’’
The Kanawha County Board of Education has set a special meeting for Wednesday afternoon to decide if its schools can join Phase 1 of the SSAC’s plan. The school board for each county around the state decides its approach with the SSAC recommendations.
A few other counties, such as Berkeley and Marion, also did not start workouts on Monday. Logan has postponed its opening day to June 11, Greenbrier to June 15 and Wyoming to June 22.