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Hungry to play: Eagles begin football practice in hope of fall season

Boulder City High School’s football team took the practice field for the first time Monday, looking to find some normalcy during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Excited more than ever to have sports back in their lives since they went on hiatus in mid-March, the atmosphere at practice has been positive.

“It’s been really great to get back out there with the kids. It’s been an unbelievable two days of practice,” said head coach Chris Morelli. “Everyone’s excited to be back out on the field. You can just see the hunger that they have, that fire in their belly because they’ve been shut down since March. A lot of these kids had track and baseball taken away from them and they weren’t able to compete, so you can just see the hunger and energy level out there.”

Despite the pandemic, participation numbers are high for the Eagles this summer, a good sign that all three teams for the program will be fielded this season.

“It’s great to see that we have everyone back from last year; participation numbers are exactly where we wanted them to be,” Morelli said. “As of now, the pandemic hasn’t scared anyone away and right now we’re going to be fielding three full teams at the varsity, junior varsity and freshman level.”

Finally back on the practice field, it’s a better-late-than-never approach for the coaching staff, who has had to play catch-up after losing nearly a month of preparation. While the junior varsity and freshman teams will have to learn at a faster pace than in previous years, Morelli noted that with nearly his entire varsity roster returning from last season, the transition so far has gone smoothly.

“Obviously, we would have liked to start practice on time on June 4 like we had planned, but that wasn’t able to happen,” Morelli said. “We’re really fortunate to return almost our entire team from last season. These guys were able to come in and pick up right where we left off in November and that’s been really beneficial for us because of the time that we’ve already lost. To not have to go over the basics and reteach it this summer has been key for us. We’re only two days in and we’re already installing a new offensive set.”

Morelli noted that practicing during the current COVID-19 conditions has gone smoother than he had anticipated, as well. Following safety protocols and guidelines, the Eagles are making sure they’re practicing and following the rules at a high level.

“At the beginning, I thought it was going to be really tough to implement all these new protocols and practice differently, but I feel it’s really come along easily,” Morelli said. “As a coaching staff, we met beforehand and gave each coach their job duties. As a staff, I feel we’ve done a good job of not only keeping the players safe, but ourselves and everyone’s family. The most important thing we can do this summer is make sure we’re following guidelines and protocols and making sure everyone goes home safe.”

Social distancing and the use of face masks are at the forefront of the protocols being enforced, along with proper sanitation for all gym and practice equipment. The coaching staff has broken the team into groups of nine players, rotating them through practice stations such as the weight room and film study in 30-minute intervals. Following each station change, coaches and custodians make sure to sanitize equipment properly.

“Luckily, being a smaller school we can easily break our kids down into a few small groups,” Morelli said. “We make sure no time is wasted. While one group is in the weight room, another group is in film study (and) a different group is outside practicing speed and agility.”

Once they take the practice field, the Eagles aren’t affected by protocols calling for only 50 players on the field at one time because the varsity roster only carries 37 players. While a low roster size might typically hinder the Eagles, this summer it’s actually beneficial, allowing the entire group able to practice together.

To help make sure each team stays within the safety guidelines and practices good social distancing, varsity football meets from 7:30-10:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from 9-10:30 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Sharing practice time together, the junior varsity and freshman teams meet from 9-10:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from 7:30-10:30 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

All players are required to bring their own face masks and water.

“The kids have really been great, taking everything in stride,” Morelli said. “They understand all the precautions we’re taking as a staff, why we’re splitting everyone into different groups, why we have to wear face masks. They’ve totally bought in and understand these are the things we need to do in order to hopefully have a football season this fall.”

Rocking and rolling now that they’re back on the field, the next question during this COVID-19 pandemic remains whether the season will start on time or fall victim like spring athletics. Currently in Phase Two of reopening the state, the Eagles aren’t allowed to do any contact or one-on-one drills and won’t be allowed to do so until Gov. Steve Sisolak starts Phase Three.

Hoping to get into Phase Three by Aug. 1, the Eagles are set to open their season Aug. 21 at home against Desert Oasis. Coach Morelli said he remains cautious about the season starting on time, but is hopeful.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if there was no football this fall,” he said. “Right now we’re a go, our team is practicing under the current guidelines and we’re trying to prepare for an upcoming season. We’re hopeful the season starts on time without any interruption. As of right now, we’re thinking positively and preparing our guys for their first game.”

The Eagles are still looking for players who wish to join the team. If interested, email Morelli at Morelcr@nv.ccsd.net to pick up a COVID-19 waiver and practice schedule.

Contact Robert Vendettoli at BCRsports@gmail.com.

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