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There’s ‘no playbook’ for 2020

Andy Waddle’s been involved with football for a long time, but he’s never had to deal with anything like this.

Nobody has.

“It’s a strange time for sure,” said Waddle, entering his eighth season as the Marietta College head football coach. “Everything just continues to be unprecedented, no matter what you’re talking about. There’s no playbook for how to deal with what we’re going through right now. You have to be thoughtful and creative.”

Last week, Marietta College’s conference, the Ohio Athletic Conference, shut down intercollegiate athletics through Jan. 1. That means there won’t be any fall sports for the Pioneers, including football.

Waddle, though, remains hopeful that football will be played this school year.

“We’re working out the details about planning on it being in the spring,” he said. “Hopefully the details will get laid out soon.

“Right now, the plan is a shortened spring season that’ll hopefully end with some sort of championship opportunity. There’s a couple different models being shared amongst the conference.”

Whether there ends up being a football season this spring or not, this fall will be unlike any other for Waddle.

“We’re in an upside down kind of world right now,” he said. “Typically in the fall, it’s largely about spending time with the team. In the winter and spring, you’re still developing the team, and more time is spent around recruiting. Whereas now you kind of have to shift focus to recruiting, getting to know our players and developing them the best we can so we’re ready to go in the spring.”

Waddle said he’s picked the brain of a fellow Marietta College head coach who’s had a lot of success.

“We have a great resource in Brian Brewer, who’s won multiple national championships in baseball,” Waddle said. “One of the first things I did was reach out to his staff and ask ‘what do things look like for you guys in the fall?’ That can be a good model for us this fall because it is so different.”

Brewer and the Pioneer baseball team had their season cut short last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit.

If football does happen this spring, Marietta College has a lot of talent back, including 10 starters returning on defense, but will have big shoes to fill at quarterback, running back and the No. 1 receiver spot.

As far as high school football goes, teams around Ohio were allowed to begin practicing Saturday.

That same day, the Ohio Department of Health issued an order reiterating that participation in contact sports (football, soccer and cross country, although cross country likely will be changed to non-contact) will require players, coaches and other staff members to be tested for COVID-19. The tests must occur 72 hours in advance of competition and each team member must have a negative result in hand by game time.

These stipulations aren’t viewed as feasible for high schools to adhere to due to the time required for testing results to return, not to mention the cost of testing.

It’s widely believed around the state that, for high school football to happen, these testing requirements need to be lifted. Currently, Ohio teams aren’t even allowed to scrimmage other schools. Decisions will need to be made soon as most Ohio teams are scheduled to kick off on Friday, Aug, 28.

No matter what happens, The Marietta Times will be publishing its annual “Pigskin Preview” on Tuesday, Aug. 25, featuring rosters, schedules and scouting reports on all of our area’s teams.

Contact Jordan Holland at jholland@newsandsentinel.com.

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