BEEVILLE – Jalen Spicer has been as active as any high school senior could be on Twitter over the past several weeks, and getting back on the football field has been a common theme among many of his tweets.
Early in the morning on Aug. 3, Spicer took the field again with his teammates on the first day of practice for 1A-4A schools.
“For me personally, it’s a blessing because I know that it’s my last go around so I’m just glad I’m getting to play,” Spicer said about returning to the practice field for his favorite sport.
“With COVID and everything going around right now, it feels great getting to play. I’ve worked too hard (to not get this chance).”
Spicer has been one of the approximately 95 players that Beeville was averaging over the first few days of practice.
Trojan coach Chris Soza admitted that’s a lower average than he was hoping to see this year.
“I was hoping we would have about 110 or 115 kids,” he said.
“The kids who are showing up, they have a good attitude, and they’re working hard. We’ll get them gradually into shape because we’re not in shape yet.”
The start of this season – much like everything else in 2020 – is drastically different with the UIL’s safety protocols and guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s a challenge. It’s different for all of us,” Soza said. “It’s just kind of one day at a time. I tell my coaches, ‘Hey, just be patient.’
“... It’s different obviously, for all of us,” he continued. “I’ve been doing this for 36 years, I feel like a rookie all over again.
“It is what it is, and we’re going to do our part to try to keep our kids safe.”
Spicer said he hasn’t had much trouble adapting.
“Adapting to the masks and guidelines is not too bad. It’s just another thing we have to do if we want to have a season this year.”
Social distancing, Spicer said, has been the most difficult part of the new guidelines.
“I’d say the hardest thing to do is social distance six feet because it is football, a very physical hands-on sport,” he said.
The masks and social distancing are just the new normal for now, he added.
“In off time, putting the mask on and staying somewhat separated is how it’s going to have to be for a while, so might as well get used to it now.”
Skidmore-Tynan also began its season on Aug. 3.
First-year coach Stephen Silva said the Bobcats had 33 players on the practice field for the first days of practice.
He said he’s had playing commitments from exactly 35 players, a number that he said will likely mean the school will only field a varsity squad this season.
In northern Bee County, James V. Beauchamp Stadium sat silent and empty on Aug. 3.
Pettus opted out of the Aug. 3 start date, choosing instead to postpone the beginning of its season until Sept. 7.
The Beeville and Skidmore-Tynan volleyball teams also started practice on Aug. 3.
“It’s a really good feeling,” said Lady Trojan coach Rebecca Riojas-Fryer about being back on the court with her team.
“The energy is so different. The kids, they were just ready and eager to get back to some kind of normalcy.”
She said she was averaging about 40 players over the first several days of practice.
“It’s less than what we’ve had in the past, but it’s about what I expected,” she said.
Holly Vasquez welcomed 34 players to the 2020 season in Skidmore.
“We still have a long way to go, but the girls are working hard,” she said. “I’ve told them, ‘We just have to keep working every day if we want to be in the playoffs again.’”
The Eagles Nest in Pettus, like Beauchamp Stadium, was devoid of the familiar sounds of fall with the district’s decision to delay the start of sports to mirror its delay of face-to-face instruction.
The cross country teams in Beeville and Skidmore-Tynan also began practices on the same day as football and volleyball.
Felicia Ramirez said she has been happy with the attendance early on.
“We have had about 20-25 kids out each day; a lot of new faces on both the boys and girls side,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect ... but these kids have come each morning ready to work and are really getting after it.
“I’m really excited to see what we will be able to accomplish this year.”
In Skidmore, Linda Luna said all of her runners have shown exactly the characteristics she wants to see early on.
“Disciplined, motivated, hard work and a great attitude,” she said. “There is nothing else better than to see each one of our runners carry those with them each day we train.”