First, there was to be no high-school football in 2020. Only an odd, make-shift season near the beginning of spring in 2021 awaited competitors in Colorado’s current classes during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Then there was a chance for fall. But it didn’t work out.
Then more of the above, more back-and-forth, more elevators of emotion ... however, after a lot of anxious moments for confused players, state authorities last week announced opportunities for teams to opt for the current Season A or 2021’s Season C.
And it’s official – Mullen will play this fall, Season A, open “real” practice this week and, yes, that sigh of relief you may have heard recently from in-state schoolboys was considerably amplified by an eager group of Mustangs.
“Yeah,” a relieved first-year Mustangs head coach Jeremy Bennett said, “we’re ecstatic and we’re ready to go.
“We just felt like it was a rollercoaster ride for our kids. One day yes, next day no, then yes ... when it was approved, I was so happy for our kids, especially our seniors.”
First-year Mullen athletic director Damian Brown echoed his school’s excitement, “especially after going through all of this stuff … we’re very happy for the team to be able to play. All of our seniors can experience their senior years with all of our boys. This is a great time for them and we want them to be safe.”
There are no bubble opportunities for high-schoolers and college programs at the outset have been dealing with positive tests, so Brown said following guidelines as well as using common sense will weigh heavily this prep season.
“What we’re asking,” he said, “is we really need everybody to buy into the procedures for our kids to have a full opportunity to play the whole year.”
Social distancing, masks, following procedures and controlled crowds on and off the field remain dominant parts of 2020.
- Teams may have 50 players per roster for 100 maximum on a field.
- Everyone not on the field (between the white lines playing) must wear a face covering and local health departments may mandate even those playing wear them.
- Coaches and players must maintain 3-to-6 feet of social distancing when not participating.
- The team box will extend to the 10-yard lines to allow for more space on the sideline.
- Maximum of four non-participatory students (managers/trainers etc.) on the sideline.
- No shared water.
- Hand sanitizer available on both sidelines.
- No locker room use before or after the game or during halftime.
- No pre-game coin toss.
- All schools will play six games, and then have an opportunity to schedule a seventh game. Teams that have made the postseason (eight per class using four data points system) will play their seventh game as a playoff game.
- Teams that have not made the postseason will be able to schedule a seventh game against another non-qualifier in Week 1 or 2 of the postseason.
- No games will be played championship weekend except those in the title games and no team may play more than seven games except those that have advanced to the semifinals.
- Teams must play four of the six regular-season games to be postseason eligible.
- First games will be played Nov. 8-10.
- The six-game regular season will end on Nov. 14.
- Round-of-eight playoffs will be Nov. 21.
- Semifinals will be Nov. 28.
- All championships will be Dec. 5.
Official practice will begin on Thursday (Sept. 24). According to Bennett, school is out at 2:45 p.m., there will be weight-room sessions at 3 p.m. – “We’ll break it up into groups until 4:30 p.m.,” he said – and on-the-field practice will begin at 4 p.m.
There will be 15 practices before the Mustangs; first game, he said.
Unusually, the Colorado High School Activities Association announced it will set schedules for each team. Competing in Class 5A, which will have the vast majority of its teams playing this fall, the Mustangs will “probably be in the Metro West League,” Bennett added, which is Mullen’s current group. It consists of the Mustangs as well as Jefferson County’s Arvada West, Columbine, Lakewood, Pomona and Ralston Valley.
It’s not ideal, Bennett knows, but the bottom line is football finally will be here. And his team is ready to roll.
“Physically,” he said, “we have been going since June non-stop. We’re in pretty good shape.”
He expects about 100 hopefuls on Thursday and may be able to field three teams – varsity, junior varsity and freshman. The same protocals of preseason practice will be in place – three days of players wearing helmets, two days of helmets and shoulder pads, then full pads against bags before being termed as ready to go.
“Again,” Bennett said, “we have approved variances and we’re just so happy to get it going.”
Mullen’s all-time record since beginning play in 1936 is 589-262-18.