You would not think teenagers would be excited about running around in the heat and vomiting occasionally, but that is clearly the case.
Tipton County’s three high school football teams – Brighton, Covington and Munford – were allowed to resume offseason workouts a little more than a week ago after more than two months of being told to stay away because of COVID-19 concerns.
“I was tired of sitting around. It was boring and I missed football,” said Brighton senior Wesley Ervin during a recent workout. “When we came back it was hard. I wasn’t prepared when we came back that first day. We ran like a thousand yards and I was dying. I had never thrown up until that day, I swear.”
On Tuesday morning one Covington player was depositing the contents of his stomach into the grass after a workout, but Charger head coach J.R. Kirby said that is becoming less and less frequent.
“They’re in a lot better shape than the first day we had them out here,” Kirby said Tuesday. “The first day out here we had 15 or 20 people throwing up. The next day we had five or six. On Thursday we had a few. This week, I think we had one yesterday, and that was because he drank too much water. Today there weren’t as many guys bending over.”
“I knew had to get my mind right because it ain’t no joke out here,” said Covington senior Kevin Earwood. “The first day I had to throw up a little bit, but after that I started to drink more water and now I’m doing good.”
While workouts have resumed, they are being done differently. Groups are limited to 10 or less, temperatures are being taken of every player every day and weightlifting equipment is being sanitized between groups.
On Tuesday a group was working out to very loud rock music in the Munford weight room and the energy level was high.
Munford head coach Slade Calhoun said smaller groups are easier to manage, but planning can be challenging. Calhoun and his coaches are spending at least six hours a day at the school as different groups come through.
“I think the attitude has been tremendous,” Calhoun said. “The players are really excited and the parents are really excited to get them out of the house. Overall the enthusiasm has been really good.”
Calhoun was worried that many of his players would come back out of shape after the long break. Some were, some weren’t.
“It’s about half and half,” he said. “You could tell some of the guys had been working hard and some hadn’t been doing as much, but you can’t really get mad at it. I mean, what were we doing as teenagers?”
Munford players Traveon Hawkins, Ben Cerniglia, Kelton Mason, Trace Parker and Hastin Dodson all said they were very excited about being back.
“I thought it was going to be worse than this, but we’re out here catching balls and doing what we do,” Mason said.
“I was ready to get back in the weight room because even the gyms were closed for a while and I couldn’t get better,” Cerniglia said.
Said Parker: “We’re just getting ready. No steps back, all steps forward. We’re trying to make the best of everything because beggars can’t be choosers. We’re just working to get better everyday.”
“We’re really happy to get back to doing what we love,” Hawkins said.
“We’ve been missing it and we’re behind,” said Dotson. “Everybody’s behind but I think we’re catching up and getting to where we need to be. This is what we’re used to every summer.”
Brighton head coach Mike David said he has about 100 players between varsity and junior varsity coming out every day. That means his coaching staff is at the facility from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“I think we’re all happy to be out here,” he said. “We missed out on spring practice and a couple months of training, but I’ll say this: Our kids did a great job January to middle of March and so it hasn’t taken us too long to get back. It took us a couple of days, but I feel like we’re in decent shape. If we hadn’t gone hard in those early months, we’d be hurting.”
Ande Blackthunder, who is expected to be the team’s starting quarterback in the fall, seemed to really enjoy throwing passes to his receivers on a perfectly sunny Tuesday morning.
“I was just excited to get back and see all my teammates again so we can work together for next season,” Blackthunder said.
Over at Covington, Marcus Hayes and Lareko Burton, two key returnees from last season, both had smiles on their faces after a workout on Tuesday.
“I was happy, happy to get back,” said Hayes.
Said Burton: “I guess I was excited to have a little break, but I started getting really bored. I was ready to get back at it.”
Kirby acknowledged it was tough at first to adjust to the new way of doing things under COVID-19 guidelines, but things are running smoothly now.
“I’m not going to lie,” Kirby said. “That first day we broke them all down together for a second in the weight room and I got in a little trouble. It’s kind of old habit. It’s hard to keep them separated all the time. Football is not a social-distancing sport. The biggest adjustment is in the weight room. Outside is not that big of a deal because we split them up anyway. We have a new system that keeps them separated.”