Football season kicks off

Despite a shortened spring season and COVID-19 challenges, the football team gets back on the field ready tackle their competition


Mackenzie Sroka

Varsity football players warm up before the first football game of a delayed season against Prairie Ridge on March 19 at Huntley High School.

Emma Snyder, News Editor

As the snow melts and spring approaches, players dust off their helmets, pull on their masks, and hit the football field sprinting. Anticipation builds as MCHS’s football team gears up to begin their long awaited season. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois High School Sports Association cancelled the fall football season. But with the recent decrease of cases, all sports have begun their seasons including football. 

I’m looking forward to just being able to go out and compete with my brothers one last time,” said Dominic Lorenzo, captain and varsity defensive back. “It’s nice to see some normalcy after such a long period of time dealing with COVID.”

Football will play a shortened six game season throughout March and April, including a home game on April 1. 

“I think the biggest thing is just getting the seniors the opportunity to play,” said head coach Jon Niemic. “I think we kind of tend to lose focus on what’s important and what’s important is that we get the opportunity to play. Because if you would have told me six months ago that we were playing I would have said no way.”

Throughout the season, each player will be allowed to have two spectators come to the games. Additionally, at home games, 200 students will be permitted to come to the games along with up to 200 visitors from the away teams in the Fox Valley Conference. 

“I’m thrilled that each player will be able to have two guests in attendance at each game,” said assistant coach Joe Dundovich. “We’ve all had so much isolation and struggles of the past 12 months. Playing a team sport in front of our biggest supporters is a phenomenal sign to our players that their patience, and the support of those invited to the games, is being rewarded.”

Despite the non traditional season, the players are excited for the games and to finally be playing football with their teammates. 

“I’m looking forward to just playing,” said Haden Lucas, varsity linebacker. “I love football and I love my team.”

“What I’m most looking forward to this season is the games,” said Brayan Escamilla-Reyes, varsity wide receiver and defensive back. “Many of the players and the coaches were unsure if there would even be a season, but we’re all grateful to at least have these 6 games.”

“Just being able to have a season even if it’s half the games we usually play, it’s still fun to be on the field,” said William Bock, varsity running back and linebacker. 

The season has not come without its challenges though. Both the coaches and players have had to adjust to the uniqueness of playing football in the spring during a global pandemic. 

“The first few weeks of contact days felt so different compared to how people traditionally view a football season,” said Dundovich. “Having a ‘training camp’ period during the school year, as opposed to July/August when school is not in session, means that everyone automatically has a lot more on their plates as student-athletes. While it’s a challenge that every program has to work through, a student athlete’s time management skills and organization have really been put to the test.”

“The most challenging part to me was not knowing if we were going to have a season or not,” said assistant coach Dan Rohman. “We were asking the football players to dedicate themselves, and some their time to an unknown. They were coming into the weight room and working on strength and conditioning, plus coming in during the evening hours or after school and working on football skills, without knowing if we were going to have a football season or not.  Keeping them focused and motivated was challenging to say the least.”

COVID-19 precautions have also made the football season more challenging for the team. They are required to wear masks during practice and games and stay socially distanced whenever possible. The safety of coaches and players are crucial for teams to be able to play the entirety of their seasons. 

“To play all six games [is the goal this season] regardless of the outcome [of the games],” said Niemic. “Of course you want to win every game, I mean, what coaches are going to say that they don’t want to win, but at the same time, it’s just to make sure that we get six games. Let’s make sure that we make it through the season without any kind of scares with COVID or positive testing. We just want to be able to play six [games].”

“The most challenging [part of the season] is adapting to COVID-19 changes,” said Paul Zunkel, captain and varsity linebacker. “When you feel like something is going right, covid may take that away.”

The players, especially the leaders of the team, have risen to the challenges and prevailed in keeping morale high and players working hard. 

“Our team leaders have been phenomenal ‘on-field coaches’ in assisting their teammates,” said Dundovich. “Whether it’s helping someone learning a new position, clarifying adjustments in plays/gameplans, or asking excellent questions to help the team progress.” 

“As a captain, I am there to help the football team out as many ways as I can and also set a standard and an example for the younger guys on our team that this is what McHenry Football looks like and we won’t expect average, we expect elite,” said Luke Zunkel, captain and varsity offensive and defensive lineman. 

“My responsibility as a captain is to lead by example and be able to help the others understand their mistakes and give them praise when it’s deserved,” said Logan Lucas, captain and varsity wide receiver and defensive back. “What I enjoy most about being a captain is the feeling of needing to do better for everyone, not only myself, and to be able to bring energy and lift spirits when we’re down in a rut, being able to have my teammates and coaches trust that I can make the big play and help turn the tides for our team.”

For many players and coaches, the season has become more than just playing football. It has been about having the opportunity to do something that they love and spending time with their teammates. 

“I really am just excited for these kids to get the opportunity to be together and play a sport that they love,” said coach Zach Badgley. “It has been a rough time for everybody and this provides some much needed relief and fun for all the athletes.”

Though the team lost their first game on March 19 against Prairie Ridge 16-42, there’s still an entire season left to play, even though it’s reduced to nine games.

“I’m hoping to have a great season. I hope we find success in this harsh time,” said Gracie Gasman, varsity kicker. “I’m hoping we work together and play for each other. This is a new opportunity and we have to make the best of what we were given.”