Four days into the official start of football practice, the St. Charles Catholic Comets were able to put on shoulder pads along with helmets.
It may not be completely “real” football, but it’s a move forward.
“There’s nothing like being able to practice in full pads compared to when you have just the helmet. You can’t hit anybody, and you are kind of just walking through plays. Now it’s like real football,” said Comets tight end Logan Forsythe.
“It makes it feel a little more like football,” said safety Cade Prejeant. “It makes you want to hit people more, but we’re not allowed to do that yet with no contact. I like having pads on. It makes it feel more like football.”
“It’s tough, but you have to hold back,” Prejeant continued. “You don’t want to get punished for it. Your teammates aren’t expecting it right now, so you don’t want to hurt them or put their bodies at risk.”
Finally getting to put on the shoulder pads also helps the players in another way.
“We have to get acclimated to it, but it wasn’t that bad. An early-morning practice is not as hot as an afternoon practice,” said receiver Kendall Harris.
It may be more like real football but it’s certainly not the same.
“It’s more like football but we really couldn’t do anything more. You still couldn’t have any contact,” St. Charles coach Frank Monica said.
The Comets started practice at 6:30 a.m. Thursday to beat the heat. It also was the team’s only practice session of the day.
In past years, the Comets went to a camp in Mississippi for a week of two-a-days and togetherness in the preseason. Like most other things in the age of the coronavirus, that wasn’t in the cards for St. Charles this season.
So, the Comets are working from home.
“We are getting a little bit accomplished but not as much. If there is one positive side, it gives us a chance to get stronger because we missed an awful lot in the spring as far as strength, and even in the summertime because of our restrictions,” said Monica.
Practicing once a day instead of twice might seem like a nice departure for the Comets, but many of the St. Charles players say they miss the camp atmosphere.
“I think we lose a lot by not going to camp,” said Prejeant. “That’s where you learn all your plays and you get two practices a day. You practice in the morning and go to meetings and put in new plays and you can practice them later that day. If you get a new play at night, you can practice it the next day.
“I think we get more out of camp but we’re still putting in work and still learning our stuff here at school. I think it’s better to go to camp. I think we will miss it, but we’ll be OK.”
Forsythe echoed Prejeant’s sentiments.
“When you go to camp, you break it down from the basics to the most complicated plays we have in our playbooks. You learn all because you are out there in the middle of the woods with all your teammates and nothing to do but football. You have no distractions. All you can do is learn football. It’s the best experience you can get. You make great memories and good friends,” said Forsythe.
The Comets reached the Division III state championship game a year ago. Teams that make it that far generally developed a special bond.
Although players have been allowed to resume limited activities, bonding becomes harder when you can’t even get together as a team. The attitude of the Comets is that it’s just another factor to overcome.
“Every team across the country is going to suffer from lack of teammate chemistry but the good teams will find a way. Besides a football team, we all go to school together. Most of us grew up together. We all know each other, even if we can’t practice together like we used to,” said Forsythe.
“We will still be teammates and brothers. That won’t affect it,” Prejeant said.