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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Reeltown players stretch while practicing social distancing during Thursday's workout.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Reeltown football coach Matt Johnson was confident his players were doing what they were supposed to do. He had sent home workout plans and kept in frequent contact with his players, but admittedly, there was no guarantee.

However, when Johnson reunited with his team to begin summer workouts Tuesday, he knew his confidence was well-founded.

“We have been pleasantly surprised and very pleased at the shape they came in,” Johnson said. “I was a little concerned about it because Day 1, you don’t know what guys have been doing so you don’t know how far you want to pull off the gas. There’s guys that know they are competing for a post but at the same time, we have to make sure they are being safe. But they didn’t disappoint; they showed up and they were enthusiastic.”

Reeltown immediately hit a snag as a thunderstorm rolled through Tuesday evening, quickly putting all Johnson and the Rebel coaching staff’s carefully laid plans out the window. But starting in the gym, which has no air conditioning, was actually a positive because it immediately put the players to the test.

However, they got some outside time Wednesday and Thursday and used smaller group stations then did conditioning at a distance. Although maintaining a 6-foot distance from each other is difficult for the players and makes it less likely teams can install true football work, Johnson isn’t worried.

“What we’re doing is football oriented, but it’s hard to really do football with the restrictions,” Johnson said. “But these guys know what we’re going to do. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel on either side of the ball, so we’re really not going to change a thing.”

As far as installing the new guidelines, Johnson said it’s been easier than expected but on a personal level, he’s had to deal with things not being as orderly time-wise as he likes. He wants the scheduled times to be down to the second, but especially with the prescreening restrictions, that hasn’t been possible.

When at the stadium, Reeltown has set up two entry points to the field where players come in at a distance, have their temperatures taken and go through a sanitation process.

“Those steps make for a longer process because everyone is coming in about the same time,” Johnson said. “We have a coach making sure they’re staying 6 feet apart, a coach taking temperatures, a coach doing sanitizing then a coach getting them set up. It’s just a lot of moving parts, but overall I’ve been very pleased with the process.”

The biggest negative to the restrictions for Johnson is he feels like it doesn’t lend itself well to team camaraderie. Football, and sports in general, lends itself to being close to each other — for encouragement, congratulation and more — and that isn’t possible.

“When someone does something good or we want to push someone, we’ve just gotta stay back,” Johnson said. “That’s new and different. That’s probably the worst part of it; they just can’t get right up in there.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.