ENGLEWOOD — McMinn Central held its first football practice of 2020 and it was anything but normal.
The first gathering was more of an informational meeting along with some light stretching and conditioning.
From this point forward there will be two different sessions as the 40-plus players are split into two groups and those large groups are broken into subgroups named after SEC schools.
It’s all an effort to keep the players apart in terms of social distancing and following guidelines to keep groups small in the battle against the coronavirus.
While there are varying degrees of concern among the public regarding COVID-19, Central Coach Derrick Davis is taking the threat seriously.
“It’s such an unpredictable and unknown (thing). Obviously, my concern is the safety of these players and the safety of these coaches ... We are going to do the best we can on being safe and we are going to hope for the best that nothing happens and we get through this safely.
“I am not one of those guys throwing up my hands (saying) we are making too big a deal (about it). I would never get over it if something happened to one of these players.”
Neverthless, Davis is ready for some football.
“I’m really excited to see the players again,” Davis said. “Unless I ran into one of them at the gas station I haven’t seen them in two months. It’s good to get back. I’m excited and I think the kids are excited, just talking with them. It’s good to be back.”
Thursday the players were in shorts and T-shirts and the practice was mostly about detailing how future practices would be conducted. The meeting ended with some conditioning.
Davis said the Chargers won’t do a lot with their schemes and focus more on fitness. After Thursday, Central will have 17 more practices to get in over the next four weeks before the dead period.
“Right now is mostly for conditioning and weightlifting,” Davis said. “You can watch film or go over your offense. You can do stuff like that, but our main focus is conditioning and weight training. We won’t do anything scheme-wise until after the dead period.”
The Chargers went 3-7 last year in his first year at the helm, but Davis believes Central will be better this year. He liked what he saw out of his players during the winter and if that work ethic continues he believes the Chargers will be improved.
“I think we will be more competitive just because I’ve been here for a year and they’ve been around me for a year and know what I expect and what the coaches expect,” Davis said. “Obviously, our region is a really tough region, every Friday night is going to be tough. I’m not going to go out and predict a bunch of things, but I think we can really be very competitive.”
Davis added that he will find out more about his team over the next 17 practices.
“In the next few weeks we are going to find out who is going to show up,” Davis said. “We will find out who can push themselves to be mentally tough and who we we can depend on. You may not be in a game-like situation, but you can’t get better unless you are here. So showing up is important.”
The most important thing, however, is staying safe.
“This is my 26th year coaching, 21st as a head coach,” Davis said. “There is no script, no blueprint or no experience that I’ve been through to kind of prepare you for this type of stuff. If I was playing now, my mom was always worried and I don’t know if she would even let me come up here. She’s worried and I’m sure the parents are worried. That’s one reason why we are trying to break them up into two different sessions and try to mitigate the possibility of (spreading the virus).”