MARSHALL, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — After football was deemed a higher risk for COVID-19 spread last year, Illinois high school players and coaches were left on the sidelines for months to wait and see if a season would happen.
For Robinson High School senior, Wylie Bonnell, the idea of not being able to play one of his favorite sports was a difficult idea.
“”I felt really sad. I really wanted the opportunity to play and I’m glad we got to play,” Bonnell said.
Sharing his grief at the time, was teammate and fellow senior, Jeff Goble.
“I just love football, I love playing it. I thought if we didn’t have a season, it’d be the end of the world,” Goble said.
Head Coach for the Maroons, Casey Pinnell said it was a truth he faced everyday that he may have to tell his players there would be no season.
“There’s always a little bit of doubt, but I think our coaches did a good job staying positive. As a coach you never want them to see that doubt in you. We tried to be positive and we tried to be strong for them,” Pinnell said.
After forgoing the season last fall, players had to wait until late January when officials with the State of Illinois and the Illinois High School Association announced football would return in the spring with some changes.
Those guidelines included social distancing, time restrictions in the locker rooms, no postseason and continuously sanitizing equipment.
“That’s an added challenge. That’s a whole different layer of the onion I’ve never had to deal with before. It was new. That’s an extra stressor the coaches have to manage, but the kids have handled it very well,” Pinnell added.
As the season concluded for the Maroons with a winning record, Bonnell said he’ll always remember taking the field with his friends.
“It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had a good time playing football with all of my teammates. I’m going to miss it,” Bonnell said.
Coach Pinnell says when he remembers this season, it won’t be about the wins or losses.
“”I wouldn’t trade this season for anything. This experience has been incredible and like I said, man, they’ve been through so much. It’s good just to see them be happy,” Pinnell said.