Next Man Up

A close-knit team, socially distanced

In this pandemic, almost everyone has had to make sacrifices, particularly sports and extracurricular groups. The football team has faced many obstacles so far, having to change and accommodate many of their regular routines for the safety of the players and staff. According to Head Coach Byron Bode, they took ‘a little bit of a different approach.’

“Obviously [it was] different, the social interaction, the hugs, the high fives, the close-knit stuff went away,” Coach Bode said. “Everybody had to remain a minimum of six feet apart, you just lost the intimate part of sports. The celebrations and things like that.”

But, in these safety measures, some of the authenticity or bond may be lost. The social interaction outside of games and training were more than different, they were almost zero. Parents couldn’t be as involved, and kids couldn’t stand too close to one another in the weight room. Occupancy was cut in half and the team was under constant threat of exposure in almost everything that they did.

“Just as challenging as it is for the kids, its challenging for the coaches as well, but we talk to our kids all the time about controlling what you can control,” Coach Bode said. “And so much of this stuff is out of our control so you have to make the best of the situation.”

Senior Jacob Densmore, wide receiver, says he wasn’t personally affected as much but the preparations they made pre-season were a little different. They couldn’t do a lot of weight training and it was hard to gain muscle without being able to “spot” one another. Practice itself was structured about the same but the bond between coaches and players was weaker than it used to be, as stated by Densmore.

“It was more of, like, an eye opener really for a lot of guys to figure out, ‘Okay, you can’t slack off,’” Densmore said. “Because, I mean, a week without working out and you will realize how much you’re going to lose in just that one week.”

According to senior Robert Harden, who plays outside linebacker, ‘any slip-up could’ve affected the season’. They wore masks while training and stood distanced at the games in hopes that no one will be exposed because, in the chaos of the season, one positive test result could have been detrimental. He said that one positive is that they ‘finally appreciate’ what they had before COVID, that they had taken it for granted.

“Success isn’t defined by wins and losses, it’s the worthy pursuit of a worthy goal.”

-Coach Miller

In a turn of events, the Ranger football team couldn’t play two out of their ten games. This is devastating to some who have set goals for themselves in terms of ranking as they won’t have as many chances to play as others would, much like senior Jordan Nunn, who was middle linebacker. He had a goal to lead the district in tackles but the person who ended up in the lead was ultimately able to play more games than Nunn.

“It didn’t really feel too different out on the field, it’s still football,” Nunn said. “You’ve got to go out, you’ve got to go play. Win or lose, we were all blessed to get to even play this year.”

Often, it is helpful to find the positives in such a bad situation. When you’re forced to finally change something, you may find that there is a better way to do it. You kind of have to reflect on the things you’ve done and adjust, said Bode.

“Our coach of staff did a great job coming up with a plan, and our kids did a great job of executing that plan,” Coach Bode said. “It’s all adversity. But if you will allow that adversity to make you stronger, and you embrace it, you’ll come out on the other side better.”

With players in and out of quarantine, there was never any certainty of who would play at each game. But the students adapted beautifully, despite the struggles discussed thus far. All of the football team lived by one rule: send the next man up.

“It made us really have a ‘Next-Man Up’ mentality,” Harden said. “We had to play every practice, every day, like its our last day. And anything could happen.”

Towards the end of the season, though, almost all of the sports were greatly impacted by a wave of COVID exposure. Right after Halloween the school had to send entire teams home. While this may waver spirits (the lack of masks, constant risk of exposure, and lack of close-knit teamwork) some of the players were just happy to be back in the game. Nunn said that whenever players are put into a situation where they don’t know if they’re going to play, it gives them the opportunity to ‘play every game as if it’s [their] last.’

“I’m out here to play football,” Nunn said. “I came out here to enjoy my last guaranteed year of football and enjoy my teammates one last time.”

Some of the coaches and teachers are sympathetic towards the class of 2021, as the seniors have missed out on so much of their last year in high school. But some seniors stuck through it and made a great example for the rest of the students.

“And the guys who were positive leaders, they left a legacy,” Densmore said. “That’s the most important thing as a senior, is leaving a part of you behind to help future classes whenever they come through.”

Although some goals were not accomplished and there were many complications with this year, we’ve all learned so much from this experience and can walk away from 2020 with wisdom and a new perspective.

“It’ll get back to normal one of these days,” Coach Bode said. “But you’ve got to have hope and faith that we’ll get through all of this stuff and we’ll get through it all together.”