Practicing without playing certainly made for some monotonous days for the East Jackson football team.
“It felt like ‘Ground Hog Day’ over and over again,” Eagle coach Cameron Pettus joked, referencing the hit movie from the early 1990s.
East Jackson was forced to cancel its first two games of the season due to multiple players being exposed to a positive COVID-19 case.
But, with their quarantine now finished, the Eagles will finally kick off the season Friday (Sept. 19) at Banks County.
Pettus is ready.
“Me and the AD were joking at lunch (on Monday),” Pettus said. “We said we can’t believe game week is here, again, knock on wood … Everybody is just so excited. You’re in this so you can watch these kids play because they’ve worked so hard and we’re just looking forward to Friday night.”
East Jackson, which had around 20 players quarantined, goes into this game having a significant portion of the roster having not practiced for nearly two weeks.
“It’s not easy, and they’ve got to get back in and they’ve got to respond,” Pettus said of the situation. “They’ve put in a lot of hard work, and then you take a two-week break, that’s always going to be tough on you. But we’ve got good, resilient kids, and I think they’re going to respond back.”
Several players returned to practice Friday to begin the mandated five-day reacclimatization process. The team then practiced Saturday, so those players will wrap up their re-acclimation by mid-week this week.
One of the biggest issues, though, is the Eagles enter this game not yet having played while Banks County (0-2) is already two games deep into its season. The Leopards opened with a 41-18 loss to Commerce on Sept. 4 and then fell to Franklin County 35-6 on Sept. 11.
“I think, obviously, they’ve got some game experience under their belt, and as a coach, that always makes you a little nervous that we haven’t had that,” Pettus said. “But I think that we’ve had some really physical and demanding practices that have allowed us to kind of set the tone with our guys.
“I think we’ll really respond well. I know they’re excited and ready to play, and we’re excited for them.”
Eagles are prepping for a Banks County offense that mixes both Wing-T and spread concepts. Because of that, the Leopards show many formations and have a wide play book.
“The big point of emphasis is getting lined up and identifying correctly what we’ve got to do defensively,” Pettus said. “We’ve got to tackle well. That’s the No. 1 concern, and then the turnover battle is going to be huge.”
Offensively, Pettus said his team must “do a good job of taking what they give us.”
“Don’t try to push and do too much,” Pettus said. “Just do our job and let the game come to us.”
While East Jackson will play this game under less-than-ideal circumstances, Pettus noted that the Eagles aren’t the only ones in the state who have lost time due to pandemic-related issues.
“That’s just the world we’re living in and everybody is dealing with the same issue,” Pettus said. “We’ve just got to adapt and overcome.”