North Hardin standout senior linebacker Michael Lunz was just happy to see his teammates.
“I haven’t seen my guys in a minute. It was a great thing,” he said. “My mom is real high-risk for corona, so I’ve been in the house pretty much all quarantine. It was good to see them and to work out with them, too. It’s evident who’s been putting in work and who’s not. That in-person contact is really important.
“We have a lot of guys who definitely showed they’ve been working out over quarantine. A lot of guys took the responsibility upon themselves to work out and make sure they got right.”
Lunz, who verbally committed to Arkansas State, saw growth is some of his younger teammates.
“You wouldn’t tell being with them all summer, but being away for the last two-and-a-half months, you could see the young guys getting bigger,” he said.
The Trojans, bullseye squarely planted, will take this week off and head coach Brent Thompson said his squad is not doing any weight lifting because of all the restrictions.
“I got with our weight room guy and he said that with all the stuff going on and with all the restrictions of being in a confined area — and in talking to our athletic director and Miss Corder (Principal Tanya Corder) — we discussed it and decided we needed to have everything outside,” Thompson said. “I thought moving some of the weight equipment outside was a little much, so we decided to just do conditioning.”
The Trojans were in groups of 10 and went through different sprints.
“We just want to see everyone getting a little better each day,” Thompson said. “We’ve been going Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to give them long weekends if they want. When we come back in our regular July — when the dead period would normally end — we just add Mondays.
“We try to give them off most of the weekends.”
Thompson is like every football coach waiting for the football to actually be introduced.
“The biggest thing I think everybody is waiting for is being able to have a football out there and throw it around,” he said. “I think most coaches aren’t too worried about helmets, obviously we’d love to have them. At least being able to get out there and throw the football around will help everybody.
“We’ll see what they say in the next revision and go from there.”
The KHSAA broke the return of high school sports into four segments and the third begins Monday.
• Groups of fifty (50) or fewer are permitted, divided into subgroups with no more than eleven individuals (10 players and one coach, 9 players and 2 coaches, etc.).
• Shared equipment is permitted in this segment per the guidelines, but with frequent sanitization
• As feasible, if individual opportunities are desired for passing, receiving, kicking, etc, the athlete should utilize their own ball or should be assigned a ball to be used by that player and only that player for the entire session (and sanitized routinely).
• This period is specifically low-touch, medium sharing per the guidelines and as such, there is only minimal, necessary physical contact permitted between athletes, or between coaches and athletes.
• All individuals must avoid physical contact with others including high fives, huddles, or other close contact occurring before, during, or after activities unless the contact is for the purpose of safety.
• For football, contact with other players is not allowed, and there should be no use of tackling dummies/donuts/sleds.
• No rules specified protective gear (helmets, shoulder pads, extra required gear) may be provided to student athletes.
“I feel that as long as everybody has been progressing the way we have — I feel that Hardin County Schools has a very good plan in — I’d love to see the revisions (to the fourth segment, beginning July 13) as soon as we can get them,” Thompson said. “I think if you try to jump through the last hoop before you do the first hoop you could mess everything up.
“I think if they give us footballs by (the end of) June, I would say we have two more weeks after that and they could say, ‘Alright, put your helmets on,’ which is normally what you do anyway. By the end of July you can have your pads on, then that’s about the time you have them on anyway. I think they’re doing it the right way. If you come back and put them straight into helmets and they haven’t been conditioning for three months, you’ve got a lot of things that could happen and go wrong.”
The Trojans have a luxury most teams don’t in they return five of their top six skill position players on offense — running back commit La’Vell Wright (Kentucky commit), receivers Marcus Harris (Kent State commit), Camron Smith and Ramaj Adams and quarterback Manie Wimberly.
“If this had happened next year with what we’re losing this year, I’d probably be a bit more worried,” Thompson said. “I enjoy what we have coming back. We have several starters coming back on each side and a veteran group that has been there, so that helps us. We’re not worried about putting stuff in for our first team. But our second team and our younger guys, they will be on a little faster pace than they would have been.
“We’ll find out what we’ve got and adjust according to what the KHSAA tells us.”
North Hardin is also unique in losing its front four on the defensive line to graduation.
“I’ve never had to replace all of them,” Thompson said. “We knew last year that was coming so we repped some players in JV games so we have an idea who’s coming. We still have several players that started on the offensive line.”
That’s where missing spring football meant something to the Trojans.
“For us, defensive line and offensive line are key parts. You want to make sure what you have and don’t have,” Thompson said. “You also want to see if you have any surprises. Last year in spring ball is when we moved Jordan (Lovett) to safety and we were able to see him.”
Lovett, a Kentucky commit, led the nation with 15 interceptions a year ago when the Trojans finished 13-1 after a loss to eventual state champion Trinity in the Class 6-A state semifinals.