Varsity football adjusts to safety protocols

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Photo courtesy of Oviedo Journalism

This story was originally published in the first edition of The Lion’s Tale (October 6, 2020).

Friday night lights in the jungle are something Oviedo High School (OHS) students look forward to every year. Packed stands of students cheering on their favorite athletes, performances from cheerleaders, dancers and the Oviedo Lions’ band- it is part of an American tradition that has been around for decades. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc throughout the nation and the world, this mainstay has been forced to adapt.

So what is to become of OHS football and Friday night lights? Though there are many changes that have been implemented, it is confirmed that the Oviedo Lions football team will indeed have a season this year, but with the confirmation of a season comes the confirmation of new rules and regulations. Some of these new rules include limited attendance and ticket sales, social distanced workouts and new practice regiments. But perhaps the biggest change is the arrival of a new head coach.

“Starting last spring we got a new coach after Christmas break, coach [DJ] Mayo”, said senior wide receiver Keith Nemasango. “After the pandemic hit, our spring season was canceled and he left for Georgia, which left us without a head coach for two months, and we didn’t know what to do.”

After months without a head coach and team training, the Oviedo Lions found themselves starting anew, with the arrival of a new head coach, Kolby Tackett. They soon gained access to the home football field and weight room, and have been preparing for the season ever since.

“We started working out, like individually, even if we didn’t have coaches, we all got together and worked out as much as we could,” Nemasango said.

Making sure the team works together as one is crucial to success, not only on the field but off the field as well.

“We worked out at our homes, at the field, and we just stayed in touch with each other so we didn’t lose our bond,” Nemasango said.

Separated by offense and defense, the players practice in two groups. The mandate to wear masks throughout campus, and the state in general, has caused some difficulties and annoyances in the gym.

“Wearing the masks during workouts is definitely annoying,” said senior Sebastian Vargas.

During 7th period, the varsity football team can be found in the OHS weight room located in the back of the school. After a long day of classes, the team does several workouts, all while wearing masks.

“They’re not comfortable. I mean you, get used to it, but it’s not as comfortable as you want to be,” Nemasango said.

Despite all the challenges the team has faced, and will continue to face, early in the season, they have prevailed due to their hard work and dedication to the sport they love.

“I am very competitive. No matter what I’m put up against, I’m gonna just compete,” Vargas said. “I’m going to bet on myself every time. I have a passion for what I do, and if I don’t do it with a passion I’m not gonna do it at all.”

This hard work and perseverance has paid off so far. The Lions are 3-0 after beating Colonial, Harmony and University High Schools. Against Harmony, sophomore quarterback Luke Rucker threw for a school-record seven touchdown passes, including two to Nemasango and one to Vargas.