Football Friday: Perspectives

Football Friday: Perspectives

Emmy Angel, Ella Spooner, and Natalie Wilcox

Anyone who has attended West Ottawa High School knows what a typical Friday night home football game looks like. 

   Last Friday was not typical. 

   The COVID-19 guidelines affect players, parents, coaches, referees, and announcers. Players are only allowed two tickets for spectators; thus, the stands are nearly empty, the crowd is quieter, and the students are watching games from their TV screens.

   West Ottawa played Jenison last Friday. Although putting up a tough battle, the team ended up losing 25-35. 

Jr. Kobe Haglund (First-year Player):

   “I really enjoyed getting back out on the field with my teammates for the first time in a while. It was different because we all had to wear face shields that are kinda like masks, and water during the games is a lot different. We have to bring our own water bottle, and we can’t share with others. This also means we don’t have water boys anymore. I wish there were more fans. It just makes it more fun and exciting. If I could change anything, it would be playing without masks and having everybody at the games. There wasn’t one specific moment that made me realize the reality of this situation; it was more the overall emptiness in the stands and the quietness that came with it.” 

Sr. Kegan Garcia (Fourth year Player): 

   “It felt good to finally play again after thinking we wouldn’t have a season. There were a lot fewer fans there, and having to wear a face shield is definitely different. I wish we had more fans there. It’s nice when there are a ton of fans cheering you on and having them there to support you. If I could change one thing about our first home game, I would love to have won, and I wish we had more people there to watch and cheer me on.” 

Sr. Alex Toth (Black Hole leader): 

   “COVID-19 has affected us watching the first home football game pretty significantly. Without being able to physically be at the game, it forced my fellow Black hole leader Jake Neitzel and I to brainstorm some alternatives. After lots of communication with WO’s administration, it ended up boiling down to us staying at home and watching the game via stream. To make things kind of normal, Jake and I had a few friends over to our house and we all watched the game together. It was still such a great time. The moment that really made everything sink in was during the streaming of the game. It made me realize that watching each game from home could possibly be the new normal. Regardless if this viewing format continues or not, Jake and I are planning on still making the most of what we have.”

Karl Von Ins (Announcer):

  “The seriousness of COVID hit me when I learned that WO spectators could not go to the high school to buy a conference pass for the season. I have been doing that for years, and learning how such a small number of people are allowed at the games was a shock. Everybody who comes through the gate at the game has to have a mask on; you can’t get in without wearing it. We also can’t hand out rosters this year because of the risk of transmitting COVID. Last Friday, it was very humid and there was no breeze at the game. Being the announcer, I was in the press box. Due to wearing the mask, when I exhaled my binoculars fogged up and I couldn’t see. This forced me to hold my binoculars away until the moisture went away, and then looking back to the field, trying to catch up on the play. I also have to speak through the microphone wearing a mask, which is a nuisance. I wear it because there are six other people in the press box with me and due to my older age, I have a much higher chance of dying if I catch the virus. Another change in the press box is that the number of people working the score board went down from two to one. This is in order to prevent people from touching the same equipment. Additionally, I now have a special plastic pass to allow me to enter the press box. Nobody can get in unless they have this pass. It’s also different having no kids at the game, no band, and no Black Hole. There is just no sound coming from the grandstand.”

Ryan Kelly (Chief of Referees): 

For one, most people do not realize the amount of time that we as officials put into the season prior to it even beginning. About a month prior to the season starting we are in training meetings where we review prior season plays, and we review our mechanics of how we can officiate better so the players get a better game. By the time of the first game, we are usually just as excited to be on the field as the players and coaches. In a normal season, the reality of the season really hits us when we walk onto the field and smell the popcorn from the concession stand, hear the crowds and band and feel the freshly cut grass under our feet for the first time. This season, the excitement of the pregame is not as intense. We no longer meet with the coaches as a group,  and we are not meeting and talking to the players prior to the game. There is not the smell of popcorn nor the marching of the band. But, we thank God every Friday that we can be on the field.”

Ryan Oshnock (Head Coach):

   “Obviously the starkest difference between coaching a game during the pandemic and not is simply the wearing of a mask. I’ve always been a vocal football coach and the biggest obstacle for me is adjusting my voices’ volume with a mask on. During the Caledonia game, we were attempting to make a defensive adjustment, and I found myself nearly eating my mask.”  

Jim Terpstra (Parent of player So. Cooper Terpstra):

   “Having our first home game felt great. Considering that at one point, we did not think there would be a season at all, the ability for the football team to play a home game was awesome. It is definitely different with all the guidelines, the small amount of fans, and the regulation to wear a mask. For the next home game, I would love to see our band perform. There is nothing like hearing the band before the game and during halftime. I’d also like to see a handful of seniors be allowed to attend and cheer on their buddies. I miss the kids running on the track with the WO flag after we score. However, it’s great to see the team take the field again! Go WO!”