High school players returned to weight rooms, fields and courts across the state Monday, June 1 — the AHSAA-mandated date they could begin working out under new guidelines created because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our biggest goal for today was to celebrate being back together and to try and build excitement for the rest of the summer,” Boaz head football coach Jeremy Sullivan said.
“Just enjoy having a chance to come back out here and do this again, because there for awhile, I wasn’t sure we were going to get that chance.
“Just happy to be out here and be back with the kids. That’s why we do this. Heck, I’ve missed them. I’ve enjoyed spending time with my kids and my wife, but it’s time to get back to work, and these kids are ready.
“We’ve been communicating a lot with all the kids since we’ve been gone, and they were ready to come back. Between football, basketball and baseball, we had over 80 kids here today. That kind of tells you they were ready to get back and get started.”
Some of the coronavirus-related health precautions initiated by Sullivan and his staff are:
» All players will have their temperatures checked before entering the field house.
» Each day, Sullivan will address the players and ask the questions from the screening form provided by the AHSAA.
» Each weight station will have hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. The bars will be wiped down between sets.
» When entering the field house, all students will wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
» Each spotter will be required to wear a face covering.
» In between groups, the weight room will be sanitized with the Clorox machine.
“We’re taking extra precautions to make sure we keep everyone safe,” Sullivan said.
“We’re going to have two workout groups this year. In this economic climate, I just can’t ask a kid to quit a good job. We’ve got some kids who are still going to be working during the day.
“We had one kid come in at 5:30 this morning and lift. He wanted to come before he went to work, so we worked with him. We’re trying to be as flexible as we can with kids. If they want to come, we’re trying to give them an opportunity. If they’re not here, we’re not holding it against them.
“It’s a different kind of year. It’s not your typical summer. It’s just going to be different, and we’re all going to have to use some common sense and some patience to try and get through this thing.
“We’ve got three months to get ready to play. We’ve got to use our time wisely, but we’ve got to be smart about what we do with our kids and what we ask of them.”
Carter Lambert, a junior, plays quarterback for the Pirates. He was among the 80-plus players who attended Monday morning’s workout.
“It feels really good to get back with everybody and get started,” Lambert said. “We’re not trying to overdo anything, but just get back in the swing of things.”
Cole Bowling is a Pirate senior running back/receiver. He described Monday’s workout as “awesome.”
“It feels really good,” Bowling said. “It’s good to be back here with my friends, just getting back at it and working hard.
“We definitely practiced social distancing while we were in there [the weight room]. We wore masks and had hand sanitizer. We’re working out and running routes outside.”
Sullivan is excited about the return of offensive playmakers Kadin Bennefield, Eli Jacobs and Jaquez Kelly.
Bennefield led the Pirates with 950 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns in 2019, and Jacobs rushed for 490 yards and nine scores.
“We’ve got some guys we have to replace,” Sullivan said. “We had a three-year starter in Easton Hardin at quarterback, but we think Carter is the right guy. He’s done what you don’t see kids do a lot anymore – he’s waited his turn. Now it’s his turn, and he’s going to try to do everything he can to take advantage of it.
“We’ve got a lot of new kids out who didn’t play last year. We’ve got five receiver-type kids out … it could change our program if we can get them ready to play.
“I think we have probably the most talented skill guys we’ve had since I’ve been here. A lot of them don’t have a lot of experience or have never played before, so it’s a great time to get all those guys caught up and teach them the offense.”
Boaz kicks off the 2020 season at Hayden on Aug. 21. The Pirates’ home opener is against Madison County on Aug. 28.