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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Swarming Defense Highlights Paris Performance Against Magazine in Preseason Football Scrimmage

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Every year, coaches hold their collective breaths when their teams hold spring scrimmages or preseason scrimmages in August. Coaches just want to get their players into a game situation, work on their sets and execution, and then get their players out to reduce the risk of season ending injury before the season ever starts. Get a player hurt now, and there may not be enough recovery time for the player to return for the season.

And from a life perspective this year, you certainly do not want anyone to become ill with the COVID virus. The coaches dilemma is a microcosm of the entire decision to play high school sports this fall.

But in a year where spring football was taken away due to the pandemic, and the reduced amount of time that was allowed for conditioning and team practices in the summer, the preseason scrimmages have taken on added importance as teams are using them to regain some of the lost practice time before next week’s start to the regular season.

On Tuesday, Magazine traveled to Paris to play junior high and senior high school scrimmages. As coaches from both schools focused on their teams and the work they needed on the field, the story this year was what was happening in the stadium off the field. For Paris high school, yesterday’s football scrimmage was the first competitive game for the school since that fateful day on March 12 when school was closed and all sports came to an abrupt end.

Normally, a scrimmage is a fun thing to watch, but certainly it is not ever as exciting as watching a good regular season game. But yesterday, this reporter found himself more excited than usual to be back on the field and watching players do what they enjoy doing the most. After the lead up to the scrimmage that has been so well documented throughout the summer, it was finally time to play. After all of the highs and lows of wondering if this day was ever going to happen, it was actually time to play football.

In a strange sense, it was good to be back on the field…listening to fans complain about the officiating, coaching kids from the stands, and all of the other sounds, smells, and sights that we have grown accustomed to experiencing at high school football games. So, the real story behind yesterday’s scrimmage was what was going on off the field.

I arrived early to the stadium before fans were allowed inside. I observed great cooperation from the fans of both schools. Masks were being worn, and the Paris administration was on hand to provide enforcement of the Arkansas Department of Health guidelines that had been put into place for schools to follow this season. There was no band, cheerleaders on the track, or team run throughs to start the game. Fans were not allowed on the field, and I did not notice a long line at the stadium’s concession stand when I happened to look up from my photography.

So if I were evaluating our fans, the schools, and the overall compliance with the Department of Health’s guidelines, just as coaches will evaluate the video of yesterday’s scrimmage, I would have to say that I was very pleased and proud of the response of the fans that attended the scrimmage. Sure, it felt a little strange wearing a mask and not seeing the spirit groups present during the game, but it was all necessary for the protection of everyone involved, and all of you who attended the scrimmage can be very proud.

From a game standpoint, Paris took care of business the way they were expected to going into the scrimmage. Paris entered the scrimmage wanting to execute their game on both sides of the ball and not lose anyone to injury. The same is true for Magazine; perhaps more so with fewer numbers of players on the Rattlers senior high roster.

It appears that both Paris and Magazine accomplished their goals for the scrimmage. No player from either team was seen leaving the field with an injury. The quality of play from both schools was, I thought, very good considering the reduced number of days coaches have had to get their players ready for the season. The coaching staffs of both schools have done a very good job getting their players ready and making the best out of a bad situation.

After the game, Paris coach Tyler Clark was pleased overall, but said his team “kind of” executed the way he and his staff were expecting. Coach Clark said his team had a lot to fix and work on before next week’s season opener at home against Lavaca. And best of all, no one left the scrimmage with an injury.

For Magazine, the Rattlers were outnumbered on both sides of the ball. But the Rattlers showed that they too are a talented and physical team. I expect Magazine to again be a force in Class 2A football this fall. The Eagles knew going into the scrimmage that they would have to be ready to play, because Magazine is a program with great pride and talent. The Rattlers went to Paris to give the Eagles a tough, physical contest. And that is exactly what they did. The Rattlers are going to be just fine this season.

So, one of the last impressions I had from yesterday’s scrimmage was a change in the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA) pregame announcement. In previous years, schools would read a sportsmanship message to the fans before each game. That announcement is still there, but now, there is the added message of complying with health regulations if fans want to “finish the season.” After living the nightmare of high school sports coming to a sudden stop on March 12, the phrase “finish the season” will give me nightmares. But it is a good statement, and a good reminder that we all have to do our parts to protect the players and everyone connected to high school sports.

So, for Paris and Magazine, the first test has been completed. Now the real work begins. Coaches from both schools will be scrambling to fix issues that surfaced during the scrimmage before next week’s season opener. But this year, there is another part to the equation; we all have to stay healthy from week to week. And that starts right now. We can’t let up. We can’t relax. We all have to be as vigilant next week and the following week, and all the way through week ten and the playoffs.

But I have to say…it sure was fun to see football again! Stay with Resident Press for complete coverage on this year’s high school season. RP will be at Paris high school again on Thursday to cover the Lady Eagles preseason scrimmage with last year’s Class 3A state finalist, and this year, Class 4A Hot Springs Fountain Lake.

See you at Paris Gymnasium on Thursday!

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