When Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey first announced the Stay at Home health order in April, she told reporters, “If you’re eager for a fall football season coming up, what we’re doing today gives us a better chance of being able to do that.”
Now, as restrictions further ease in the state, it seems there might be a pathway on the horizon for Friday Night Lights and Saturday showdowns to return to The Plains in the fall.
Auburn High head coach Adam Winegarden has had the difficult task of trying to keep his returning players physically and mentally sharp during the offseason. He and his staff created a Facebook page where they have kept in contact with players, giving them personal workouts and hosting team meetings as best as they can from a virtual setting.
“Our goal was to try to recreate April and May as best as possible,” said Winegarden.
With players being out of contact with the rest of the team for so long, one worry was that some might slack off of the workouts, but Winegarden said his players have responded remarkably well and he looks forward to seeing how his kids have improved when they return.
“Every circumstance provides an opportunity to grow, and this pandemic has really given the players a chance to improve in self-discipline," he said. "They are doing everything on their own and I have been really proud of how they have worked.”
Another local school fighting to keep its football team in shape is Lee-Scott Academy, which is under the leadership of new head coach Buster Daniel.
While both coaches remarked that the future is still filled with unknowns, Daniel finds it difficult to firmly give a time line on resuming in-person activities.
“I think ultimately it will be up to the individual school and headmaster as to when and how teams get started back up,” he said.
Winegarden is meeting with Auburn High’s athletic director this week to confirm the details, and is hopeful to start in-person workouts the first of June.
With the promise of workouts starting again soon, as well as restrictions easing, coaches are beginning to look to the fall with cautious optimism.
“We will have football in the fall,” said Winegarden. "It may be with restrictions around it, sure, but I really think if everything keeps moving smoothly I don’t see why we wouldn’t have a season."
Both Winegarden and Daniel emphasized that restrictions do need to be followed and that safety is still the priority.
“The kids come first,” said Daniel. "And we are not going to put them in any kind of harm, but we will do as much as we are allowed to do."