Marianna High School Athletic Director and head football coach John Donaldson and his squad have been in summer workouts since June, and the Bulldogs open the season with a 7 p.m. Sept. 4 game at home against the Port St. Joe High School Sharks.
The challenges in light of COVID-19 have been immense, Donaldson says, and they continue on the cusp of the season’s start.
On Tuesday morning, for instance, Donaldson was notified that Bay County teams will stall their season by a month. He had an early game scheduled against one of them, and was quickly on the phone seeking another opponent to fill that slot. In an hour or so, he had one penciled in.
He was still so uncertain of his overall schedule that he wouldn’t share it just yet, saying he didn’t like to put dates and times out there that have so much potential for changes. However, he did say he thinks he has eight or nine games nailed down, versus the 10 he can normally count on ever year.
Attendance at summer workouts has been variable. When those started more than 60 players were showing up. However, as the COVID-19 numbers began to rise in the panhandle, that slowed to 30 or less and has “ebbed and flowed” over the weeks, Donaldson said. The numbers are slowly building back up and appear to be stabilizing, however, at around 50-60. That compares to a typical roster of 75, with varsity and jv numbers combined.
Despite the difficulties, Donaldson said he’s going into the season with some positives.
“The kids are eager and excited to play,” he said. “And I’ve got a strong set of seniors that have played a lot of football over their careers and have the kind of resilience that comes from going through so much. They’ve had to endure a hurricane, and right on top of that they have COVID-19 as an issue. We have to do things that change up practice so that we can keep the kids safe in that environment. The challenges are immense, but we’re fielding a team that has more than a little experience with challenges. They’ve been through tremendous adversity, and I expect a lot from them.”
Official tryouts will be next week, and the roster of players will be set after that.
Coaches of fall sports at all Jackson County schools are encouraged to share team information as it becomes available. Send news to: email@example.com.
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