Students haven’t roamed the halls of Central Coosa since March.
School has been completed from all corners of Coosa County as parents work and students stayed home. Friday was finally a bit of normalcy as the Cougars hosted their first football game of the year.
It was homecoming at Keith Bullard Stadium. While coach Brett Thomas was not happy with the results on the scoreboard as the Cougars were shut out 42-0 to Highland Home, he is proud of his team’s efforts for overcoming adversity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s good we can still get out and compete, give the kids an opportunity to participate,” Thomas said after the weather-shortened game. “The thing of it is, really, I have mixed feelings because my team is young. My line except for one person, they are all freshmen or like Braylen McKinney who this is his first year playing.”
Thomas is hopeful the youth of his team will mature.
“We just got to keep working on the line,” Thomas said. “Hopefully they will stay together and in a couple years they will gel enough and big and strong enough to play well.”
The coaches of both teams elected to call the game at halftime as lightning was popping all around and a strong line of rain was approaching the area.
In that half of ballgame, the Cougars snapped the ball only 20 times. Two plays were interceptions and many plays were for loss. All told the Cougars only gained 1 yard on Highland Home but Thomas saw positives on the night — especially defensively.
“After we started to get our legs under us, they started to do better putting up a fight, making some tackles,” Thomas said. “I can see improvement.”
Thomas also saw the respect McKinney once again garnered this week.
“He was double and tripled teamed,” Thomas said. “They ran away from him the entire night.”
It is a repeat performance for McKinney and Thomas is impressed given how long McKinney has been playing football.
“He did real well against Luverne,” Thomas said. “Luverne ran away from him. He is doing well considering this is his first year playing.”
Thomas knows his team has the ability to improve, but being a rural school with athletes living a 30-minute drive from school makes it difficult. The inability to hold effective practices as Central Coosa is holding its first nine weeks of school online is dealing the Cougars a problematic deck of cards.
“We are so far behind the 8-ball — not being able to get kids to practice is an issue,” Thomas said. “Most of our kids have to ride the bus. Without the buses it's hard to get them here for practice. I have some kids who can’t get here every day because their parents are working. They have no way to get their child to practice. We have some who come every other day to practice because that is the way their schedule works out.”
Thomas believes the Cougars will learn a lot from the season; it’s just the lessons will not be noted on the scoreboard.
“We are learning how to deal with life and what it deals us,” Thomas said. “I can see them wanting to improve and working. It’s just tough. We are going to persevere.”