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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Sep. 16, 2020 1 week ago

COVID-19 already forcing changes to football season

Both Central Florida Christian Academy and Olympia High School have had games canceled this year.
by: Troy Herring Sports Editor

On Friday night — Sept. 11 — Central Florida Christian Academy was supposed to host its first home game of the season against Seven Rivers.

A week before, the Eagles lost their season-opener against Zephyrhills Christian Academy, so this week was the chance to get into the win column. 

Then, just as it has all year, COVID-19 ruined things.

On the Monday leading up to CFCA’s game, head coach Jeremy Campbell got a call in the middle of practice from Seven Rivers head coach Monty Vann. Seven Rivers had an outbreak of coronavirus and was forced to close down, which in turn meant that football wasn’t happening. CFCA had just become one of the first schools to have a game canceled because of COVID-19.

“What I did at that point was try to find a filler through the SSAC and just through all of the contacts that I had — just find someone who was in a similar boat,” Campbell said. “I was hoping that we wouldn’t be one of the first teams it happened to, but it was, and we kind of viewed it as a bye week, so we just practiced Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week and kind of just kept it light. (We) fine-tuned and tweaked some things just to get ready for this week.”

Through Monday and most of Tuesday, Campbell said he continually tried to find another team to play, but nothing surfaced. That Tuesday night, he told his players there would be no game on Friday. And there was a reason to the wait, Campbell said.

File photo

“Once you tell them they’re not playing, it’s hard to get them back if I were able to find a game,” Campbell said. “I wanted to keep that and do everything I could to find an opponent. Believe it or not, we had an opponent, but they were coming from Miami, and we know that Dade County hadn’t even started playing yet. They were disappointed, to say the least. … But again I have a senior-led team, so they understood that this is more than just football — this is about life and health.”

Meanwhile, at Olympia, head football coach Travis Gabriel has been dealt a season that was halted before it ever started.

On Sunday, Sept, 6, Orange County Public Schools officials — along with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County — announced Olympia’s campus would be shut down for two weeks following several positive cases of COVID-19. For Gabriel, that meant losing a week of practice — which just started Aug. 31 — and the cancellation of the Titans’ opening game against Windermere, schedule for Thursday, Sept. 17.

“All I can say on that is we just do what we’re told — I’m just always going to be compliant and do what I’m told, and be fluid with the whole situation,” Gabriel said. “Can’t get mad, can’t question why — it is what it is. Whatever we have to do to get these boys a season, that’s what we have to do.”

Although many are frustrated by the havoc that’s been wreaked on the football season — and fall season as a whole — Gabriel said he and others have moved past that. Everyone is in a tough situation, and there’s not much that can be done about it, he said. 

So now, Gabriel and his players have to wait before they can get back to practice for the Titans’ next game against Gateway Friday, Sept. 25. The hope is to be able to schedule the Windermere game sometime in November. In the meantime, it’s about teaching his players to enjoy every second of whatever season is had.

“For me — and I guess I can probably speak for other head coaches — we all have to be flexible,” Gabriel said. “We always tell the kids to play this game like it’s your last — well, we all have to do that this year, because the first game could be the last game.”

Troy Herring is the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

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