Walnut Ridge football team adapts to COVID-19 challenges

Two players tested positive last week, leading to a canceled game

Walnut Ridge football team tackles COVID-19 challenges

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (KAIT) - There’s no question players and coaches have had to prepare for the uncertainty of COVID-19 this season.

Many area games around Region 8 have been canceled due to COVID-19, including the Walnut Ridge/East Poinsett County game Friday, September 11.

The Bobcats were back practicing this week without a few members of the team.

“It’s unexplainable, you know, there’s not really a whole lot we can do about it," Senior fullback and linebacker Blaine Wade said.

Wade has been playing football since the fourth grade, and he says preparing for his final year on the team has been different than most years.

“We [were] really looking forward to this year," Wade said. "I really felt like we [were] going to be successful and then we got a curveball so we just got to take it the best we can.”

Two Walnut Ridge football players tested positive for COVID-19, with nearly 20 additional players forced to quarantine.

Head Coach Jeff Blake says it has been a challenge to prepare his team with the unknowns that COVID presents.

“You never know when it’s going to be your last week whether it’d be injury or whether a pandemic is going on like it is right now," Blake said. "We try to prepare as many guys as possible to get ready to play and hopefully, we have everybody, but if we don’t, then it’s just next guy up.”

Coach Blake says he wants his team to play every game as hard as they possibly can and he hopes the team will be able to play a full season.

The second-year coach added that the only thing he can control is making sure the team is ready to play each week.

His message to the team is simple: play every down as if it’s the last one you’ll play. It’s a message that’s being heard loud and clear by the team.

“I take every game one game at a time," Wade said. "Don’t take anything for granted, because you never know. Friday could be the last time you ever step on the field.”

Coach Blake says he’s expecting to have the players who tested positive for COVID-19 back at practice after the bye week.

He hopes to be at full strength for the conference opener at home against Palestine-Wheatley next Friday.

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