Uncertain future: Chrisman football coaches, players hope to have a season this fall

Bill Althaus
William Chrisman football coach Matt Perry, wearing a mask as he addresses his team following an early-morning Monday practice session, is hopeful that there will be a high school football season this fall.

The physical joy of returning to the practice field is oftentimes overshadowed by the mental dread of dealing with the pandemic that has our nation in its deadly grasp.

As members of the William Chrisman High School football team execute a number of no-contact drills early Monday morning at Norman James Field, many are wondering if they will be able to use the drills to their advantage this fall.

“The mental thing can be a wall,” senior H-back and middle linebacker Mason Walters said after his helmet and shoulder pads were sanitized by coach Matt Perry. “You can let it stop you or you can right through it – and my teammates and I plan to go right through it.

“We’re wondering if we’re going to get to play this fall, but that’s not keeping us from working hard – mentally and physically – this summer. We should be scrimmaging by now, but personally, I feel lucky because I know a lot of schools are not getting the opportunity we are.”

Perry said that the state of North Carolina recently announced the cancellation of fall high school sports, and he is crossing his fingers, hoping that decision does not impact Missouri.

“It’s new territory, something we have never experienced and hopefully, will never experience again once they find a vaccine,” said Perry, who never took his mask off during practice of a post-practice interview.

“Our seniors are wondering if we get to play, and right now, we’re playing. Personally, I love being out here with our coaches, players and our managers – this is what we do, this is what we love.”

Perry, though, says he can see it in his players.

“I can tell our seniors are feeling some added stress because if a few of them have a strong senior season, they’re going to get some scholarship offers. If we don’t play, who knows what’s going to happen,” he said. “And it’s not just football – it’s all fall sports, and we just don’t have an answer. It seems like things are changing again. Not like early on, when things were changing every hour, but there are changes and we’re all hoping we can find a way to play in the fall.”

That’s a dream for senior defensive end/offensive tackle Alex Atagi.

“Right now, we’re blessed to be in a school district that knows how important it is for us to practice, and hopefully play in the fall,” Atagi said. “Physically, it’s great to be out here with our brothers. Mentally, it’s tough because no one knows what’s going to happen this fall. And for a lot of us seniors, it could mean getting a scholarship and going to school or not getting a scholarship, and a lot of us have worked four years to get to this point.”

Junior center Hosea Miranda has a great deal of empathy for his teammates.

“I’m a junior, I have another year to prove that I can play college ball,” Miranda said, “and I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a senior and have to deal with the stress of now knowing if we are going to play (in the fall). This is all real, and no one has the answer, but our coaches are doing a great job of preparing us for whatever happens.”