High School Sports: Football practice seems right for New London-Spicer Wildcats
Football, volleyball teams have their first official fall practices Monday with games starting next week
NEW LONDON — Hearing Kenny Chesney in the locker room after a spring football game was going to be strange for Nick McKenzie.
A senior lineman for the New London-Spicer football team, McKenzie was elated when the decision was made to move football back to the fall. On Sept. 21, the Minnesota State High School League’s board of directors voted to reinstate football and volleyball back to the fall after originally moving to the spring back in August amid concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, football and volleyball teams across the state had official practices to prepare for contests next week. “The Boys of Fall,” as Chesney sang about, are back in the fall.
“Hearing that (song) after a hard win, it’s just amazing,” McKenzie said. “I love having football in the fall. It would have been so different having it in the spring; it wouldn’t have felt the same.”
Volleyball will have 14 regular-season matches along with two weeks of postseason play. Football will have a six-week regular season with a two-week postseason. The postseason format is to be determined and is among the action items in the board of directors’ meeting agenda for Thursday.
Volleyball matches start Thursday, Oct. 8. Week 1 of football takes place Oct. 9-10.
Some teams were taking part in spring preparation practices over the last two weeks. Last week’s decision breathed new life into the preparation as teams now have two weeks to get ready instead of six months.
“The energy between all of us multiplied,” said NLS senior Jack Novak. “Everyone was so excited (after last week’s decision). We started working twice, three times as hard. Everyone’s ready to get back into it and get into season mode.”
Still, the coaches are trying to stay vigilant about the coronavirus guidelines. With 82 kids on the football team in grades 9-12, head coach Dan Essler has kept players in pods by grade with the hope of preventing any outbreaks during the season.
“It’ll be difficult; if something happens, you have to deal with the ramifications at that point in time,” Essler said. “No one wants to get shut down but at the same time, hopefully everyone is honest and if you get symptoms, you stay home.”
NLS’ first football game is scheduled for Oct. 9 at Watertown-Mayer. The Wildcats’ volleyball team opens the season on Oct. 8 at Litchfield.
“I’m so excited. It’s what we’ve been waiting for, our senior football season,” Novak said. “It’s later than we would have hoped, but we’re just thankful we get to be here.”