Football Team Quarantines: Season Delayed

Alyssa DePasqua, Staff Writer

Along with many athletes who are playing Fall II sports, football players and coaches have been anxiously awaiting its arrival. Now that it’s finally here, football players and coaches were ecstatic to be playing at all, even if it comes with added regulations and safety precautions due to the ongoing pandemic. However, about a week into practicing for their first game, which was scheduled for March 20, a player tested positive for COVID-19 and 35 players and coaches had to quarantine. This was hard news to hear for the football team. 

Head coach Ross Jatkola said that it was hard for the team to get excited for the season, but when it finally came time to practice, they were excited to start playing again. “There was doubt until the day it started,” said Jatkola. “They felt that the season may get taken away from them, so their overall excitement was coming from getting the opportunity to play.”

Team Captain Brenden Dowling said that the team stayed excited throughout their quarantine, despite being isolated. “The team is still excited.

We got caged up for an extra two weeks but we’ll be ready to show everyone the type of football team we are as soon as we get the chance,””

— Brenden Dowling

said Dowling. 

The pandemic even forced players to prepare by themselves in isolation. Team captain CJ Joyce said that he had to prepare for the season on his own. “In a normal year leading up to the season, the team would workout at Building M and would be on the turf running sprints,” Joyce said. “However, due to the pandemic my teammates and I had to train and get ready for the season by ourselves.”

Dowling said that his preparation was similar due to his access to his own workout equipment. “I was able to continue working out and lifting weights due to the great facility I have in my own home,” Dowling said. “However, the hardest part was that I had to do it all alone. I was unable to lift with my teammates and get better together.”

“Most kids, including myself, got gym memberships and worked out with fellow teammates,” said Senior player Michael Fedele. “We were also allowed to conduct a light pre-season without pads or contact. During that time we worked on our fundamentals and plays.”

Though the team wasn’t able to prepare as much or at all together during the off season and is still divided due to the team practicing by cohorts, Jatkola, Joyce, Fedele and Dowling all agree that the team is still very close and the bond is still present.

“I’ve been playing football with some of these kids for ten years. The bond is always going to be there,” Dowling said. “We’re as much a team as we have been, if not more because of the pandemic. We know how little time we have left together and cherish each second on the field.” 

Joyce agreed with Dowling, saying “Most of the guys on the team have known each other for a long time since we played youth football together as well. I really don’t see any difference between how close the team is this year and what it has been like in years past.”

“We’ve made about 50 different group chats where players have organized workouts at gyms and keep up with news about football,” said Fedele. 

“We’ve learned a lot through this whole thing that you can still make connections,” Jatkola said. “They want to meet more because they feel isolated already.” 

Dowling said that they kept this connection throughout their quarantine as well. “I’ve been keeping everyone in the loop and helping to make sure kids are able to continue workouts of any kind. And I have stayed in touch with Coach Jatkola to help relay his messages to the team,” Dowling said. “We’ve been doing zooms to watch film and messaging in group chats.” 

Along with the communications struggles also comes the burden of COVID-19 restrictions they have to follow. “Wearing a mask under the helmet is a challenge for the kids,” said Jatkola. He also mentioned that due to restrictions, they had to “limit the amount of kids on the roster” which has never had to be done before. Though approximately 35 varsity football players were considered close contacts of a positive player according to an email sent by the school nurse’s office, Jatkola emphasized that symptom checking and staying a good distance apart is key to the health and safety of the team. They are scheduled to return to practice this Thursday, March 25.  

Through all of the restrictions, Dowling said that this season is no different from past ones. “Other than the rustiness accompanied by having not played football in a year and a half, I feel like I picked up right where I left off,” Dowling said. “I’m stronger, faster and more mentally prepared for this season than any season I’ve ever played.”

Fedele is glad that football is back despite the strangeness and thinks it’s the perfect remedy for the town.  “Even though these are strange times, I’m glad Barnstable has football back. People in the community have been looking forward to this and I think it’s just what the town needs right now,” said Fedele. 

 The restrictions also include the rule that no student fans can attend football games this season. Fan Jill Aaltonen, a Junior,  said that she was upset when she heard about the rule and was sad to be losing yet another great school spirit event. “It’s something that you want to do and look forward to and being told that you can’t do it is frustrating,” said Aaltonen. 

Jatkola said that the stands filled with fans has a positive impact on the game and the team’s performance. “We’ve always played better at home and we’ll have to adjust and focus on the game itself,” said Jatkola.
Despite the delayed start, the team still has a positive lookout on the season and what they have to offer. “We were hoping something like this wouldn’t happen, but you gotta be ready for everything. It’s a tough blow, but we’re a mentally tough team and it won’t affect us too much,” Dowling said.