They will be playing football in Illinois this school year, just a little bit later than first thought.
The IHSA gave the green light for basketball to start immediately Wednesday in Illinois. At the same time, the IHSA announced that football’s start date for practice has been pushed back from Feb. 15 to March 3 with a six-game schedule starting March 19.
The new date sounds much friendlier for Bureau Valley coach Mat Pistole when it comes to Northern Illinois climates.
“I was deeply concerned how much practicing we would get in during the early weeks when it is most crucial due to the unpredictable weather in Northern Illinois we see,” he said. “I was also concerned about snow days taking a day of practice when in football you can’t really afford to not have a day to prepare during the week.
“Considering we have not had a lot of time with our kids from an athletic enhancement standpoint, this gives us an opportunity to get them conditioned to be able to handle the demands of a 5-6 game football season.”
The Storm coach also had concerns about tearing apart their field during the late-winter months that could “potentially have injury implications and lasting impacts to the surface.”
La Salle-Peru coach Jose Medina agreed a later start date will be beneficial.
“I think the later start date definitely helps as far as the weather goes,” Medina said. “It gives us a better opportunity to get outside and get some practice in.”
Medina is happy the Cavaliers will get a chance to compete and use their new turf field regardless of season length.
“We’re excited, for sure,” Medina said. “No matter if it was four, five or six games, whatever it was, we’re just happy the kids have the opportunity to get out there and compete, actually get to use the field and have at least some normalcy.”
Most of all, Pistole is excited for his kids, especially the seniors, as well as their coaches, parents and community.
“Good news has been far and few between since last March and this was a much welcomed shot to the arm for everybody. Hope has been hard to come by and now we have some so we’re laser focused on the opportunities that we have,” he said.
St. Bede coach Jim Eustice thought there would be a little less overlapping of sports in the IHSA’s new alignment, but understands the overall picture.
“I understand trying get the spring sports a little longer time since they lost last year. Overall, I think the IHSA did the very best they could do in light of the position they were in,” he said.
While elated to get to play football, there is disappointment in the Princeton camp. The Tigers had high hopes of playing for a state championship with a strong nucleus returning from last year’s 3A semifinal run.
“Being honest, I was disappointed not to get a state series,” PHS coach Ryan Pearson said. “Our kids have worked so hard and we are at a point now where we feel our program can compete for a state title. To see them not get that opportunity was tough to swallow.
“I am however extremely happy for our kids to get a season and for our seniors to get six more games in the Tiger Stripes.”
La Salle-Peru went 5-5 last season and qualified for the postseason for the first time in a decade. The Cavaliers had hopes for another playoff run with a strong core returning, but Medina said the team will make the most of the opportunity it has.
“You always want to strive to get better from the previous year,” Medina said. “Not having (a postseason) this year, it is what it is.
“We don’t have that end result of the playoffs, but at the same time, every year we preach to the kids that we want to win games. That’s the same thing we’re going to do this year. We’ll continue to tell the kids we have six games, let’s take full advantage and see what we can do as far as winning those games.”
Eustice said his approach to the shortened season will not change.
“You always want to win football games. At this point, given what our seniors went through with losing their junior spring sport seasons and now here we are in basically February of their senior year and they haven’t been able to play anything except golf and cross country, we just hope they all have a great experience,” he said.
“People talk about playing high school sports the rest of their lives, especially their senior year and these seniors haven’t had anything yet. We have to make sure in every sport that’s going to be played in the next four months that we can create some memories for these kids to take with them for a lifetime.”
Eustice said he has no concerns of playing spring football then turning around and playing in the fall.
“I’m not necessarily worried about a turnaround from April to August. You can tone it down in the summer a little bit if you need to,” he said. “Playing schools your own size would be a big part of helping that as opposed to schools two or three times your size, but whatever the schedule turns out to be, we’re going to play it. Then we’re going to move on the baseball and wrestling. We’ll see when that ends then we’ll start it all over again hopefully in July and be completely back to normal getting into the next season.”
Eustice said all the head coaches at St. Bede get along very well and we will work it out.
“There’s no question we’re going to be sharing athletes even more than we already do,” he said. “We don’t have everything etched in stone yet. We’re in discussions, but we’ll get it figured out, there’s no doubt in my mind. We’re going to do the very best we can so the kids aren’t making decisions for one sport or another.”
Medina said figuring out the overlapping of seasons will be a work in progress,
“That’s going to be crazy getting those kids the time and practices they need. I think we’re all going to sit down, plan some things out and see how that goes,” he said.