MILWAUKEE - The 2021 fall high school football season is underway for some in Wisconsin, but some teams have already canceled games due to COVID-19 with players forced into quarantine.
Teams like the Piux XI Popes and St. Francis Mariners know all about adjustments. It can often be the reason a team wins a game. This year, those tweaks are happening off the field as they aim to keep COVID-19 from sacking their season.
Piux XI head football coach Jamaal Napoleon touts his team's effort in preparing for this season – mastering the playbook, knowing their assignments and following COVID-19 protocols to a "T".
"We always try to have masks on when we're indoors, social distancing and disinfecting everything. And then also, just making sure that kids take care of themselves, make sure they're healthy," Napoleon said.
Because if the players aren't healthy, they just won't play.
The Cudahy Packers were forced to cancel a game due to health and safety protocols. In Burlington, the school district said 16 unvaccinated players are in quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure.
Pius XI athletics director Kevin Kehoss said just having a full season comes down to communication and accountability.
"It's not easy," Kehoss said. "It's not so much what they do at school so much. It's what they do out of school that is what I'm worried about. We try to make sure that they all understand that if we're all in this together, we'll take care of this together."
Pius XI and St. Francis high schools play football on Aug. 19, 2021.
On Thursday night, Aug. 19, it meant disposable cups instead of shared water bottles. Team staff sanitized footballs between plays. Win or lose, playing the game is better than no game at all.
"We want to have a full season, a successful season, and that starts with being safe off the field before you're safe on the field as well," said Napoleon.
The pandemic has also forced teams to be flexible on scheduling. Kehoss said games are normally scheduled months in advance, so if an opponent has to cancel it can be a scramble to find a new team to play.