Fall athletes happy to be back where they belong

Dover High head coach Rudy Simonetti with his team Monday afternoon. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — With the temperature in the mid-80s and the sun beating down, Monday definitely could have passed for a day in August.

But here it was, almost the end of September, and Delaware’s high school student-athletes were just starting pre-season camp on Monday.

As far as Caleb Dyer is concerned, though, later is still definitely much better than never.

Caesar Rodney quarterback Zach McClements throws a short pass during the first day of practice at CR on Monday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“It’s amazing that everything has come up so quick,” said the Caesar Rodney High senior football lineman. “Less than a month ago, I was sitting at home, just wondering what I was going to do with my days in the fall. But now we have almost 100 kids out here ready to strap it up and play.

“It’s just something amazing to see.”

Nobody planned it this way, of course. When the DIAA board of directors decided to delay the start of scholastic sports until the winter season in December, fall-sport athletes weren’t going to play until late winter and early spring.

Quarterback Jordan Moran checks downfield for a receiver. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

State health officials changed some recommendations, though, and athletes around the state went to work on Monday in preparation of a mid-October start to the season.

“Just being back around the team feels good,” said Dover High junior quarterback Jordan Moran. “It’s always good to be around the guys.

“I was at the gym. I just remember praying over and over again, waiting to get the news back (about the season starting). I was excited.

“It’s almost kind of like normal. Everything in life right now is abnormal but playing in the fall instead of playing in the spring just brings that normalcy back.”

Caesar Rodney head coach Dan Candeloro talks with a coach during the first day of practice at CR on Monday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Indeed, at first glance, Monday’s workouts looked like the start of pre-season camp in any other year.

Football players headed out to the field, lugging their equipment; soccer players kicked a ball around and field hockey players ran on their field.

On the other hand, they were all wearing masks to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They also lined up to have their temperatures taken before heading to practice.

Wearing masks during competition — which is being required in Delaware — seems to be the thing that will take the most getting used to.

“We’re lucky that we get the chance to even be out here because some people aren’t even doing it,” said Dover senior linebacker Kaden Klooster. “We’re going to deal with it (wearing masks) as best we can. Obviously it’s going to be a little upsetting but we’re just going to have to push through.”

“The only thing that’s irritating is the mask part — and not being able to practice how we used to practice,” said CR senior quarterback Tremere Woodlin. “But that’s the only thing. We’ve just got to get around that stuff and play through it.”

While the late start to the season might mean fall athletes get to avoid the August heat for pre-season, it might mean they’re playing in some pretty cold weather by the time they’re done.

The seven-game football regular season won’t end until Dec. 4. And the four football teams that make it to the state finals will be playing the weekend of Dec. 18-19 — just a week before Christmas.

CR senior lineman Kevin Hudson said he wouldn’t mind playing football in some snow.

“It’s going to be cold — that’s the fun time,” he said with a laugh. “I hope it snows, I want a game in the snow.”

Cold or hot, Hudson said being together with his teammates is really the only thing that matters.

Dealing with the pandemic has been difficult, of course. But coming back makes Hudson feel like he and his teammates have overcome some adversity.

“About a month ago I didn’t know if we were going to have a season,” he said. “I love being out here with them. Us seniors have been playing together since we were eighth or ninth-graders.

“We’re out here practicing with helmets on. It feels really real. It’s neat to know that adversity can be thrown at us and we can challenge adversity.”