When the clock wound down on Polo’s 36-28 win at Amboy on September 10, little did the Marcos know that the victory over the Clippers would be their last game for a while.
By that point Decatur Lutheran, slated to have been Polo’s Week 4 opponent, had already gone into COVID-related quarantine, canceling a Week 3 game against Pawnee as well as the September 18 matchup with Polo.
But then Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland had to forfeit the Week 5 game with the Marcos when rising COVID-19 cases led the school to go into an “adaptive pause.”
“As an AD it’s been a really long two weeks, and as a coach very frustrating trying to keep the kids excited and keep them focused,” Polo coach and AD Ted Alston said. “I will say, I think on Tuesday I went out to practice and we had already started on Monday to prep for Flanagan, and I had to tell the kids that we had another game called off. That was pretty rough on the kids. They were disappointed. Those were a couple games we were really looking forward to.”
The Marcos were already able to start implementing game plans for the October 1 game against River Ridge. Last week, the Marcos went back to focusing on the things they needed to improve upon.
“We really went back and looked at our first three games and focused on things we didn’t think we were doing well,” Alston said. “We did actually start prepping for Flanagan on Saturday, so we spent that practice and Monday’s practice on that, and then went back the last few days to football-specific stuff and back to basics and focus on improving ourselves.”
By the time the matchup with River Ridge comes around, it will have been 20 days since the Marcos last took the field. To ward off the potential for rust, the Marcos planned an intense intra-squad scrimmage Friday to simulate game speed and timing.
“It’s going to be like playing a Week 1 game again,” Alston said. “... You need games, and losing these last couple games I hope doesn’t set us back too much, but it probably is going to set us back a bit.”
Alston was ready to look far and wide to find replacements for those games. He even looked to Wisconsin and Iowa to try to find a game, but nothing came of it.
“If there had been anything within six hours, we probably would have played the game,” Alston said. “We just don’t want our kids to miss out on that.”
Week 4 it looked like Polo had a game, though it would have meant playing Monday then pushing the Week 5 game to Saturday, but ultimately that fell through.
Alston reached out the the Illinois 8-man Football Association, who sent word out to coaches around the state. He also reached out to the state associations in other states. There were times it looked like there might be a team to schedule, only to find that that team was coming off its own COVID-related quarantine and wouldn’t be back in school until the day before the game.
He said that if something had come up as late as Friday afternoon, he would have put his team on the field Saturday, but feared that other teams looking for a game would want more time to prepare. Alston isn’t worried about how much time his team would have to prepare. The Marcos just want to get back on the field.