A great day to be a Tiger

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St. Mary’s coaches look ahead to unconventional season

By Trent Friedel, Exclusive to the Times

Motel 6

It is about that time of the year when I would normally be writing about Saint Mary’s preparations for the upcoming season. Or maybe about some 7-on-7 summer sessions. Possibly a showcase of some position players on this year’s squad or where the team sees itself this year. Well, this summer, as we all know, is anything but normal. I am not even sure what that is anymore!??

As of just six short days ago, the LHSAA released a statement that the organization is “fully committed to the safe return of high school athletics this fall.” I guess the underlining thing there is safe, and executive director Eddie Bonine has previously stated that he expects games to be delayed but there is no plan to cancel the season.

So, we are left to wonder what will be of the football season. There was talk a couple weeks ago of flipping seasons to play fall sports in the spring and vice versa. That was shot down by the LHSAA but may return to be discussed as the State remains in phase two of recovery. There are currently four phases to starting sports specific seasons.

To allow for football games to be played, the State of Louisiana will have to be in phase four. A chart is available that shows which activities are permitted in each of the phases that are based off guidelines from the CDC, White House and the National Federation of High Schools.

Gov. John Bell Edwards ordered Louisiana to remain in phase two of reopening until July 24 and the State is under a mandatory mask requirement. Phase 3 would allow 7-on-7 drills to commence but little more. The summer rules of the LHSAA are set to expire Aug. 10. So, what is a coach to do with an ever-changing target to compete?

I reached out to Saint Mary’s football coach Aaron York to get his take on the issue and where his Tiger team is in their quest to hopefully compete this fall. He has been getting the players conditioned in the gym with off season strength training while working within the constraints of social distancing and limited numbers for gatherings. Conditioning and training are currently permitted. I have written about the conditioning that is evident in the teams Coach York has fielded. They routinely have plenty of young men playing both sides of the ball and that requires exceptional endurance and stamina. That is true anywhere but even more so with the intense heat of early season Louisiana football. But, as the summer heat relentlessly exerts its oppressive effects on his players, it is prime time for conditioning. Envision wind sprints, gassers, 100-yard runs and all the other things that make you better in the fourth quarter. That is what his squad is getting done, the hard work that cannot wait on an ever-changing possibility of actual games.

He thinks that a right shift of a couple of weeks may alleviate some of the heat associated issues for some teams. Coach York thinks that perhaps the season will run into December and possibly the New Year. That would push all sports about a month off normal schedules and have baseball and softball going into June for post-season play. Coach Brooks McMinn says that there are already some states that routinely have baseball go into June. McMinn thinks that it may be beneficial to move the season to avoid the early cold and rainy baseball games that often get canceled or postponed. The football team has been getting work in on offensive and defensive schemes and packages. His offensive line lost some guys to graduation.

York plans on his team being ready when the time comes. I am confident that if sweat prevents COVID-19 his group is good to go. Up until this week, York was on track to install a large portion of the playbook in preparation for the season. He has had to pump the brakes on that since he is unsure of when the first game may be. “I didn’t want to throw to much at them when we are uncertain about the timing of a first game.”

He has been assured that whenever the word comes down that games will take place, the teams will probably have about four weeks to prepare for that eventuality. That should give him the time he needs for full playbook install and work through. Coach York is fairly confident that the annual Steak Supper will still take place. But it will be void of a football scrimmage if we are still in Phase II or III. The annual crawfish boil and golf tournament were canceled this year. That event is one of the main fundraisers at the school for athletics.

It is difficult to say when anything may take place in the reality that is pandemic uncertainty. One thing is certain though and that is the coaching staff at St. Mary’s is diligently working to have a field ready team while adjusting on the fly to changing guidelines and restrictions. Coach York remains positive and still thinks it is “A great day to be a Tiger.”