Football 2020 is all about the mask


Mid-Prairie head football coach Pete Cavanagh and his assistants added a new piece to their coaching attire last week.

The mask.

You could say football season arrived last week with Mid-Prairie’s annual football camp. And it arrived in this new scary world we find ourselves in.

Cavanagh pulled a solid black mask up to his face. Some of his assistants wore black, some of them had black-and-gold masks. The topic of the very first team meeting on the field was not about passes and tackles, it was about COVID-19.

The Golden Hawks will plow into its season minus three coaches, due to coronavirus reasons.

They won’t be alone. Many other high school teams will do the same.

Highland has already temporarily lost one of its coaches.

At Lone Tree, bottles of hand sanitizer were as common as water bottles. Head coach Aaron Bohr stressed the importance of all the players using the sanitizer during water breaks.

How have our lives changed?

The University of Iowa and the Big Ten Conference seasons fell apart early this week as school administrators discussed what to do.

The Mid-American Conference has delayed football and every other fall sport until spring 2021.

Iowa high school football games (which won’t even happen this fall in Illinois, by the way) will feature “sanitizer”  timeouts every four minutes. Balls will be sanitized. Team benches will be sanitized. First down chains will be sanitized. Bleachers will be sanitized. Goal posts will be sanitized.

The thought of it all caused Cavanagh to shake his head.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “I don’t know. We’re going to follow the guidelines.”

Cavanagh is a teacher at Mid-Prairie, where masks will be required and anxiety will be the thought of the day, every day.

“It’s a historic situation,” he said.

The games will certainly change. In football, team sidelines will now stretch from 10-yard-line to 10-yard-line in an attempt by the Iowa High School Athletic Association to create physical distancing among teammates. Coaches are being asked to minimize roster restrictions on game day. Only one player from a team can participate in the pregame coin toss. Handshakes are totally out.

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union has banned handshakes and fist bumps, as well as switching team benches between sets in volleyball. The magic temperature number is 100.4. If you’re above that, you stay home. Athletes are expected to have their own water bottles, hand sanitizer and masks. Athletes must use sanitizer at every timeout and whenever entering play, and spectators will not be allowed in the first two rows of bleachers.

And still, there will be some teams that lose seasons.

It happened in baseball and it happened in softball, although the numbers were low.

Coaches not only have to worry about their own players and their own players’ families, but now they have to worry about the other team. In 2020, Xs and Os won’t be enough.

“I’m not worried about myself, I’ll be safe,” Cavanagh said. “I’m worried about protecting these guys’ season.”

So, when you’re wondering about whether to wear a mask, think about that.

And then go out and cheer for your team. They’ll appreciate the noise, something that MLB can’t provide right now.


Paul Bowker is sports editor of The News. He can be reached at Follow him on ,


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