ITHACA, NY -- Rod Serling could have written a great opening sequence about fans feeling like they are in some parallel universe, going into a stadium to watch a football game, thinking about what they will wear to church on Easter Sunday and whether they will file their taxes the next day… High school football in April? That is indeed some Twilight Zone stuff…
At Ithaca High this week, several student-athletes will see a real test of their time management skills. They will show up before school to take part in a practice session.
The good news, according to Patrick Hovey, is that measures are being put in place to assure that too many demands are not being placed on these students to prepare them for their last football game of the season, attend classes, then stay after school for the first lacrosse practice of the season.
Student-athletes finishing up football and starting lacrosse will not be required to take part in the usual number of practices to maintain eligibility. Hovey — an assistant coach for the Little Red football team and the head honcho for the boy’s lacrosse team — told me, “Luckily, the state allowed the football and soccer players to attend three crossover practices (instead of six) and they won’t lose anything for lacrosse.” He added, “We (the coaches) have encouraged the guys to finish their commitment to their current sport before starting another.”
The concentrated (and abbreviated) sports seasons and unusual sequence (winter sports started February, fall sports in March and spring sports in April) have required coaches to look at some things in new ways. In Hovey’s words, “We won’t have to manage their early season conditioning like we usually do (as they are already in shape), but we will make sure any bumps and bruises they are bringing in will be taken care of.”
The already abbreviated football season was cut from six games to three, with two games canceled due to quarantine issues and another due to a spate of injuries. I asked Hovey if the players and coaches had any problems getting fired up to play a traditionally fall sport in the spring, and he said, “No… ‘getting into it’ was not the issue, it was not having time to do it. Every day, we wondered what we could have done with a little more time.”
I spoke with one of the parents presently dealing with the odd overlap, and Ellice Switzer told me, “Our son, Jack, is a junior, and I feel really sad for the seniors because we had (due to stadium upgrades) zero home games.” I asked Ellice if the shortened season and low roster numbers were disheartening to the football players as they prepare for the final game of 2021, and she replied, “Like the rest of the players, Jack loves football and was just happy to be able to play.” Putting a finer point on her son’s gratitude for the opportunity to play, she added, “He left the field in an ambulance in 2019 after a leg fracture, he went straight to the hospital and had a rod inserted in his leg.” She rolled her eyes and said, “That was a fun parenting moment.”
Like any parents, Ellice and Joel Switzer hope that Jack’s injury will be the last one to cost him any playing time, as he is on the radar for several collegiate lacrosse programs. “We’re really looking forward to the scholastic season, and after that, the club season,” Ellice offered. “It will be the only thing that will make me feel like we’re back to normal.”
Looking at the upcoming lacrosse season, Hovey likes what he sees. “We have a core group of guys that played on the varsity team as sophomores,” he stated, “and they had their junior year canceled. They are hungry to get back on the field and represent Ithaca High lacrosse. There is a lot of pride involved. They are ready to go.”
The Little Red will be led this year by senior co-captains Nick Cartmill, Colin Blakeslee and Zach Neely. Other seniors are Colden Goodrow, Justin Coolican, Cody Capalongo and Brett Wilcox.