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'Great to finally get back': Alamance Co. high school football teams relish return to football workouts


David Kehrli   | Times-News

Alamance County football fields filled with players and coaches making their return to a team atmosphere Wednesday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.

On the menu was a taste of football for those overdue for a competitive setting, looking to begin the initial phases of gathering the ingredients for what they hope is a successful football season come February.

“Just seeing these faces roll in here is refreshing,” Western Alamance coach Jeff Snuffer said.

Eastern Alamance, Graham, Southern Alamance, Western Alamance and Williams High School each began the first of three mandated conditioning days Wednesday with workouts separated into pods of 30 players or less, meaning at some schools, activities lasted into the dark. Cummings High School plans to begin football workouts next Wednesday.

The workouts marked the beginning of a journey toward a seven-game season with games scheduled to begin Feb. 26.

At Eastern Alamance, longtime coach John Kirby’s excitement radiated from beneath his mask when he yelled to junior linebacker Will Burnette, “Will, I missed you!”

That’s the common feeling from both coaches and players across the county, just happy to be back with their teams.

Many players have worked out together in player-organized activities and 7-on-7s in the months leading up to Wednesday, but finally being back as a team beats that, they said.

“A lot of times, being a senior, I’m having to be the coach out there (during player-organized 7-on-7s),” Eastern Alamance safety Jackson Stokes said. “Getting the guys out here and getting some real coaching, it’s definitely a luxury at this point. You kind of realize how great coaches are and how thankful you are for them to be out here with us.”

At Western Alamance, there was no easing into Day 1. Conditioning drills were up-tempo and intense, sweat quickly covering the t-shirts of players.

Western Alamance quarterback Kendall McKoy said he sensed a level of elevated energy from players on Day 1.

“Being gone for so long, what has built up in everybody, just so we can come out here and take it all out,” he said. “It’s just great.”

Players and coaches said they were more than happy to follow coronavirus protocols, which included temperature checks before making their way to the practice fields, wearing masks when not working out and social distancing when drills required just one individual.

“This is all something we want to do,” Southern Alamance coach Fritz Hessenthaler said. “Players want to play and coaches want to coach. … Everybody is trying to do what we have to do to get it done.”

At Williams, players continued to wear masks for the less strenuous activities such as stretching, then took them off for the high-intensity of running stadium stairs.

“It feels great to finally get back out here working with the team,” Williams receiver / defensive back Izayah Ramsey said. “I missed being out here with them. I wish we could’ve been started because everybody else (in surrounding counties have been) working out except us.”

All in all, everyone is happy to be back, some even missing the challenges of being a team.

“I missed us all being out here together as a whole, just being on the field together every day,” Ramsey said. “Complaining, arguing — I missed all that. I missed everything.”

More: Ready, set, go: Alamance County high schools gain approval from board to start workouts

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