Football program, seniors, navigate effects of COVID-19

The Harrisburg Hornet team played Friday’s game without one of its seniors.

Football program, seniors, navigate effects of COVID-19

HARRISBURG, Ark. (KAIT) - The Harrisburg Hornet football team, like many in the Region, has had to adjust to the effects of COVID-19.

The Hornets were without starting receiver and defensive back Marquell Miller in Friday’s 33-8 victory over Walnut Ridge due to him being in quarantine.

For Miller, he says this season has given him perspective.

“Football could end at any time with this coronavirus and it just kind of switched over for me,” Miller, a senior, said.

Coaches said Miller always had the athletic ability, but now COVID-19 has given him, along with the team, a different perspective on football and on life.

Miller says he always knew each game could be the last one he plays, and that is a message that the coaching staff has been preaching each day.

“Honestly, until you get to 7:00 on a Friday night, you don’t know if you’re going to kickoff," Head Coach Aaron Thornton said. "That’s how we’re living every moment, that’s how we’re coaching every moment, and that’s how our kids are playing. This could be our last game, we don’t know, it could be our last time to be able to strap up for football, but that’s football in general, you never know when your last play is.”

Miller says that message of playing each snap as if it’s your last truly hit home for him.

“I drove by, looking at the practice and just thinking like ‘I should be out there’ but no, [I] can’t because of coronavirus," Miller said. "It just sucks because ‘what should I have done different to be out there?’ Like, wear my mask more or just certain stuff, little stuff that I should’ve done better.”

Despite this, Marquell remains in good spirits.

“After quarantine... I’m going to grind,” Miller said.

And his coach, who says he’s most proud of the way Marquell has grown as a person from his freshman year all the way to senior year, believes he’ll bounce back stronger than ever.

“Every day could be our last day to play football, and he attacks every day just like that,” Coach Thornton said.

Thornton says sports are an avenue to life, and he wants players to leave his program better men than they entered. He says Miller is a great example.

Miller said he couldn’t find a solid role on the team until his junior year, with Miller admitting his first two years were a struggle.

“I couldn’t catch a ball to save my life,” Miller said, laughing.

But Miller worked hard to improve. As an athlete, Miller developed into the team’s starting wide receiver and defensive back.

Even more than that, Coach Thornton says he’s proud of the way Miller has grown as a player, and as a person.

“The biggest growth has been him as a human being," Coach Thornton said. "It’s been really exciting to see his growth as a leader on our football team and how he has attacked each and every day. He comes out and gives us 100 percent effort every single day. Works extremely hard and just very proud of his growth as a kid.”

He says he’s excited to see how he plays after returning for quarantine.

“He’s going to continue to work," Coach Thornton said. "I’m being able to communicate with him every single day and he’s just as much a part of us whether he’s here or not, and we definitely miss him, we’re going to miss him tonight, but we can’t wait until we get him back.”

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