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High school football: Ross looking to build on playoff appearance in 2020

Badin hosted Ross in their first round playoff football game Friday, Nov. 9, 2019 at Hamilton's Virgil Schwarm Stadium. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Badin hosted Ross in their first round playoff football game Friday, Nov. 9, 2019 at Hamilton's Virgil Schwarm Stadium. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Kenyon Commins has seen much growth in his Ross High School football team since taking over as coach in 2017. Now, he continues to hold out hope his first freshman class – now seniors – will get a chance to finish what they started building.

For now, the Rams and other area high school football teams are preparing for the start of official fall practices Aug. 1 while the Ohio High School Athletic Association keeps an eye on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ross is looking to improve on the first winning season under Commins, an 8-2 regular season followed by a first-round playoff loss. The Rams were 1-9 his first season in 2017.

“Watching the seniors from the beginning of when I took over the program to now, the thing that sticks out the most is the competitiveness they bring to the team,” Commins said. “It’s uber competitive. Whether we’re just playing ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors,’ it’s intense. They just want to compete, and I hope they get that chance.”

Fenwick coach George Moore, a first-year head coach, already experienced one missed season with the Falcons’ softball team this spring, so he said he’s doing everything he can to make sure his football players are safe and taking precautions seriously.

Moore said he hasn’t heard anyone say they are uncomfortable playing, and the only kids he is missing are out because of summer baseball.

“The kids have been great,” Moore said. “We have the kids we thought we would have and a couple new kids coming out the first time, but we’re not missing anyone due to COVID or concerns over it. All the kids are wanting to be out there and doing their part to stay healthy and be out there.”

Commins said Ross has been fortunate so far not to have any outbreaks, though he’s heard of it happening at other schools.

Summer workouts began for most schools June 1 in three phases implemented by the state, and sessions are basically “back to normal” now, aside from extra sanitizing methods, health screenings and social distancing outside of drills.

“We are blessed in our administration and athletic office, that the guidelines they put in place were really good, so I think our community has a lot of faith in our schools,” Commins said. “I haven’t had one parent or one athlete be hesitant when coming to us. We’re excited to get going Aug. 1 and we’re looking ahead to Week 1 already and hope the OHSAA makes the right decision in the best interest of our student-athletes.”

Both Commins and Moore said the most difficult thing has been the social distancing recommendations that limit contact such as high-fives or pats on the back, especially in the beginning when everything was new.

“It was kind of awkward because as a football coach you like to be able to end each practice and each day with everyone together kind of breaking it out and that was tough,” Commins said. “I had to go around individually and say, ‘Hey,’ to every group of nine kids because we had to stagger them out at first and that was kind of crazy because there was no sense of being together, but seeing them those first couple days was awesome and seeing how the kids came back and how their bodies look was reassuring. You’re going to have kids that didn’t do as much as others but overall we were pleasantly surprised.”

The inability to meet prior to the OHSAA lifting restrictions on team gatherings May 26 made everything more condensed this summer. Moore said normally the Falcons would have spread all the baseline work over more time and at this point, sessions would have been limited to fewer days a week.

Fenwick is lifting weights three times a week and meeting for football activities two days.

“It’s going well,” Moore said. “There are some adjustments that are just hard to get used to, but we’re pretty much doing what we will be doing up until the time we can compete against someone else. We do 7-on-7s against ourselves and intra-squad scrimmages and drills as normal. We sanitize everything at the end of practice and there’s no sharing of water bottles or equipment, but it’s pretty normal outside of that and the medical screening and COVID questionnaires.”

“It is a little weird, but at the same, it’s a minor inconvenience that if we are allowed to play, it’s worth it. The kids just like being out there.”