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OHS football ready to tackle pandemic season

Greg Mast
gmast@ottawaherald.com
Ottawa High School junior football players Reese Fogle and Adam Doran select their uniforms and other football gear as they prepare for the season. OHS fall sports begin practices on Monday.

The Ottawa High School athletes and coaches are thankful for the opportunity to play fall sports.

“We are not going to waste our opportunity,” OHS football coach Rob Hedrick said. “We will put everything we have into it. I am very, very happy we get to play.”

Other high schools across the state and college conferences are postponing or canceling fall activities.

Hedrick said coaches and players are working together to stay healthy and safe under the pandemic conditions.

“We have done everything we are supposed to do as far as distancing,” he said. “We are trying to make sure we do our part to stop the spread and not get our boys infected with it.”

The official first day of fall camp is Monday. The football team will hit the field full of energy.

The team will practice Monday and Tuesday in uniforms and helmets only, Hedrick said. Practices for freshmen will be 6:30-8:30 a.m. and sophomore-seniors, 9 a.m.-noon Monday through Wednesday.

“We are ready to go,” Hedrick said. “We are looking forward to it. We have been working all summer. We had a large number of kids that were there every day. They worked their tails off. Our coaches and kids did a really good job of having their own practice times.”

Hedrick said the excitement for this season is higher than normal because of all the speculation during the summer.

“If you get the opportunity to play, heck ya, you are excited,” he said. “Especially our seniors. I am really happy for the seniors. A kid like Ethan Janssen, who did not get to play a junior season. He has absolutely worked his tail off to get healthy and be the absolute best he could be for his senior year. If he did not get the opportunity to play, it would be tragic for every kid, but for a young man like him, it would even more so.”

Hedrick said it would have been devastating to not have a fall season.

“Everyone has a lot invested in this season,” he said. “There is not a coach at Ottawa High School that does not love what they do. To not have a season for any of us, would be truly heartbreaking. The spring coaches would tell you that for sure.”

The Cyclones, despite coming off a 1-8 season, have high expectations and goals. The interest in the program is high among the athletes with at least 70 players expected for Monday’s opening practices.

“We have some new kids out that I am excited to see,” Hedrick said.

Hedrick said athletics is an important learning element for teens.

“Sports is such a great teacher of life lessons,” Hedrick said. “This will even be more so with all the possible distractions we will have to go through with our current pandemic situation. There will be a lot of those ups and downs.

“We may get a call Thursday afternoon that we can’t play Friday night. You have to prepare for every situation. You roll with it and make sure you are ready to go when it is time to go. We will be ready for Piper in week one and whatever the season might hold for us.”

The coaches and athletes have been adapting to the changing guidelines all summer.

“You always have hurdles and distractions,” Hedrick said. “That is part of sports and life. This is just another case of that where you adapt. You don’t change your goals and objectives. You have to adapt and do a couple more things on your way to reaching those goals. We have all done that. Every sport and every coach has done that.

“It is going to look a lot different. We are not going to be able to do as many full team activities. Each group will do their thing. Each piece of the puzzle will be ready when it is time for games. We will put those puzzle pieces together and we will have a full unit. We will do the best we can and prepare the best we can. Hopefully, we will put a good product on the field for our community to watch.”