Groups from the Jackson space speak about getting again to regular and “making it” on Excessive College Soccer Media Day
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JACKSON – The wait has felt like an eternity for most Michigan high school football players.
After a tangled 2020 season with three separate start dates, mask requirements, quarantines and COVID-10 tests, the returning players for the 2021 season will have a full summer of workouts, 7-on-7 exercises and team bonding events that they can enjoy was revoked a year ago.
An annual tradition that has served as the unofficial start of the fall sports season is the MLive High School Football Media Day events. The Gridiron Block Party returned to Jackson on Wednesday after a year hiatus in 2020 when eight local soccer teams visited the Michigan Center High School soccer field to discuss the upcoming season.
Players and coaches took the time to reflect on the experiences of a turbulent 2020 season, deepen their preparations for the off-season and talk optimistically about their goals for the 2021 season.
Most importantly, they smiled from ear to ear as they felt they could finally breathe a sigh of relief after facing so much uncertainty a year earlier.
“We’re ready to play football again,” said Wyatt Hill, Hannover-Horton senior. “We are happy to have a normal year without any mask or anything like that. We can just go out and play football again. “
For some programs, the shortened season resulted in the loss of annual traditions such as the battle between Hillsdale and Jonesville. The return of rivalry trophies, crowded spectators, and a 9-game regular season is exactly what players longed for this summer.
“We look forward to playing a full season and enjoying some of the things we didn’t see last year,” said Hillsdale Senior Carson Loader. “Last year it was hard to really get into a rhythm or have a good attitude because we stopped and started so many times. There were days last season when we didn’t even know if we would train after school because we expected to be closed again. We’re happy to leave that behind and just play football this time. ”
MORE: See pictures from day 1 of the MLive Jackson High School Football Media Day events
For most budding seniors, the past two academic years have felt like they were trapped in a spin cycle. Now they hope to find their balance in time to enjoy their final year as a high school student.
“I thought about it the other day, but I haven’t had a full, normal school year since year one,” said Joe Adkins, senior lineman at Michigan Center. “As a senior, it’s kind of nice to be back to normal now, but to be honest, it might take some getting used to. I know the football season will really help us get going again. “
For the Michigan Center, which hosted the event, the return to football activities was a necessary distraction after the entire community continues to mourn the loss of three former players. Dawson Brown, Richie Mays Jr., and Kole Sova tragically died on July 17 of carbon monoxide poisoning in a motor home at a Lenawee County campsite where they were staying for the Faster Horses Country Music Festival on Michigan International Speedway.
“That gives us a reason to keep pushing and trying to get through this season,” added Adkins. “I remember going to middle and middle school and looking up to people like Dawson Brown. I know I wasn’t nearly his physique, but I wanted to be like him, even his character. Looking up to guys like that gave us a reason and motivation to keep working hard so we could be like them when we were older.
“Now it’s really up to us to be the same role models for the younger children in our community, especially now.”
The Cardinal players have used the incredible tragedy to enliven their program and bring the community closer together as they try to heal the wounds that have left behind.
“It’s crazy how close everyone has come together in the past few weeks,” said Senior Logan Heath. “I have parents of people I haven’t even really spoken to, who told me that if I ever needed anything, they’d love to help. Many players’ parents have told other players to just come to their home.
“It really made us one family, and I think it just shows how strong the cardinal church is.”
Every participating team in 2020 received an automatic playoff bid at the end of the regular season. The rule change helped end a bevy of playoff droughts across Michigan, but now the same teams are motivated to secure their playoff spot in 2021.
“It was nice to get a feel for what it is like since we haven’t been there in a while,” said Leslie Sr. David Whitehead. “Still, at the end of the day we didn’t really deserve to get into the playoffs, so it doesn’t mean that much. This year we want to really fight for our playoff spot, fight for a conference title and complete a playoff run. “
For freshman East Jackson head coach Joe Niehaus, the opportunity to “earn” it has become a rallying point for his program.
“Our goal is to get a playoff spot,” he said. “Last year was nice. We got the shirts done which helped us get the mojo going, but we want to earn it. We don’t want a handout this time. With the playoff point system and our schedule as a small school in the area, we have a legitimate chance of winning five games and earning a playoff spot. “
High school soccer practice begins on August 9, followed by the kick-off of the 2021 season on August 26-27. Until then, coaches and players will continue to be happy to talk about the upcoming season, which promises respite from a difficult year for student athletes across the country.
Below are group interviews conducted during the MLive Jackson High School Football Media Day media day on Wednesday.
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