LAUREL – With most of the Nebraska high school football teams holding their first official team practices for the 2020 season this week, one program has been at it since last week.
With Laurel-Concord-Coleridge playing a week earlier than other NSAA member schools, a week zero game will open on Friday, August 21.
Pat Arens is entering his fifth season leading the LCC football team. He said it’s been fairly normal besides wearing a mask and following protocols on proper drinking water and distancing the team.
“We’re wearing masks at all times at practice except for when they’re actively involved in a drill or scrimmage or something if they’re standing there,” said Arens. “Coaches have masks on the whole time; in the locker room. We sanitize/wipe down the balls and the locker rooms get disinfected daily.”
Laurel-Concord-Coleridge is following the protocol put out by the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department. The team did hold a three-day team camp a couple weeks back along with lifting from June through the end of July.
Arens added the situation seems to change day-by-day and hour-by-hour.
“We feel like between Wayne, Cedar and Dixon county we have pretty low cases (COVID) of it,” Arens added. “It’s never really been a huge issue. So, I guess we have a hard time wrapping our minds around it. It’s out of our control. So, we just have to do what we can do.”
Last season, the Bears started strong winning their opening four of five games before ending the regular season dropping two of three. LCC suffered a first-round Class D1 playoff loss to semifinalist Cross County (60-26) closing out their season at 5-4.
Entering the 2020 season, LCC will have 31 student-athletes out. The senior class is small with three, but good numbers in the freshmen through junior ranks. Along with returning some key players, LCC lost about half of their offense and defense with 10 graduating. A good portion of this year’s team has experience and the team won’t be starting fresh.
Following an August 21 road-opener at Homer next Friday, LCC will host Wisner-Pilger on August 28 and visit Stanton on September 4. The Bears will have their bye week on September 11.
Coach Arens mentioned this will be one of the tougher schedules in the past five years.
“A lot of these guys are playoff teams or at least have a lot of guys returning,” Arens mentioned. “I think we’re going to have our hands full but I also think we’re probably up to that challenge. I feel good about our squad, I like how we’ve been handling ourselves.”
Moving into Class D1-6 District competition, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge will host Elkhorn Valley (9/18); play at Hartington-Newcastle (9/25); host Plainview (10/2); entertain Wakefield (10/9) and end the season at Lutheran High Northeast (10/15).
Coach Arens said it seems early to start but everything is going well.
“A lot of our offense is in and it’s just a matter of getting the repetition down to really lock in our assignments on the offensive and defensive side,” said Arens. “Guys like I said had experience from last year so, it’s just kind of a re-fresher course.
With Monday’s rain, the LCC football team practiced in the afternoon and will hold other morning practices Tuesday and Wednesday. The Bears will move into the after-school hours on Thursday and Friday.
LCC will return their top back being Evan Haisch who ran for 331 yards on 91 carries with four touchdowns. Haisch also recorded 31 receptions for 289 yards and four touchdowns.
The team will have to fill the void at quarterback with Ty Erwin and top receiver of Noah Schutte. Erwin completed 138-256 for 1,708 yards, 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions while posting 86 rushes for 228 yards and six touchdowns. Schutte finished last season with 69 catches for 1,099 yards and 19 TDs.
The defense will miss out on their top tackler of Wyatt Taylor who had 87 tackles with six tackles for loss but return their next handful of defensive leaders. Nolan Ohlrich recorded 73 tackles while Cael Hartung and Haisch added 70 tackles each. Austin Hall also recorded 59 tackles and one sack.
The NSAA website also has a ‘2020 Football – Open Dates & Replacement Games’ tab where schools will notify the NSAA on any game cancellation within 24-hours of the decision. All schools are encouraged to play their regular season scheduled competitions unless a COVID-19 issue prevents them from playing. All regularly scheduled games canceled due to COVID-19 related issues will be counted as a “No-Contest” where forfeits will not be issued and wildcard points will not be awarded.