A sure sign of a normal football season returned to Fort Wayne on Friday, as more than 40 local teams from six conferences converged at Empowered Sports Club for High School Football Media Day.
While the 2020 football season proceeded as scheduled (mostly), last year's media day was canceled, one of many precautions that allowed games to proceed during the COVID pandemic.
Carroll coach Doug Dinan said the return of football season's normal rhythms is one reason to get excited about this fall – along with the Chargers' new athletic facilities and a promising senior class.
“It's so important for our kids to be together, socializing and being on the field without fear of quarantining; 'I can't do this, I can't do that,' ” Dinan said. “That's one of the biggest positives, it really is.”
The new Carroll field, which will be officially unveiled next week, will seat almost 7,000 fans.
That's not the only major change in the SAC, as North Side, South Side and Concordia have all welcomed new head coaches during the offseason.
“Getting to know the kids and making sure that we have the right process,” South Side coach Guy Lee said when asked what he had enjoyed most since joining the Archers program several months ago. “We've got new uniforms this year, the kids look great, and their work ethic is on display. They're very soft-spoken, and they're here to do a good job.”
North Side's Ben Johnson Jr., who was the Legends' offensive coordinator under Mike Brevard last season, said it has been a smooth transition into the head coaching role.
“The kids already knew me, they were acclimated to my style and what my standards are. That helped with the transition,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he is happy that some of the fun activities that go along with football season, including media day, is back on the schedule. Nearly all of the players in attendance at Friday's event wore their game jerseys as they lined up for television interviews and posed for pictures in front of huge block letters that said “2021 HS Football.”
“I'm just happy that media day is back, since last year it was taken away. I'm happy it's back for the kids, for exposure for them,” Johnson said.
But while coaches and players are enjoying the return of freedoms many students had taken for granted in previous years, Johnson said teams still have to keep up some of the COVID precautions, as the pandemic is not fully past.
“It's a hard balance, to be honest. You can't control what a kid does once they leave us,” Johnson said, noting that he and his coaches are still talking to players about COVID and recent instances of athletes who cannot participate due to positive tests. “We're still trying to practice social distancing. I know masks aren't the thing anymore, but if you feel uncomfortable around so many people, just do it. I don't want any of our kids to catch it and have to quarantine. That's a long two weeks.”