GHS

The 2019 football season ended with heartbreak in a loss in the North 4A title game. Spring workouts have been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. But local coaches are doing what they can in the meantime.

"The ball has to keep rolling.”

Those are the words of Leflore County head football coach Eric House as he, just like other coaches throughout the state and the nation, are doing what they can to prepare for what they hope is a 2020 season.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak in mid-March, which shut down schools on all levels, no sports activities have taken place for almost two months. That meant the cancellation of all spring sports, along with spring football training and jamborees or games.

“I’m finding ways to continue to improve. I’ve watched a lot of game film from last season the last two  months, and I’ve been watching several different offenses. I’ve got a lot of ideas,” quipped House, who carried the Tigers to an 8-4 overall record, which included a 29-28 loss to Sebastopol in the second round of the State 1A playoffs.

House, along with fellow Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District coaches Clinton Gatewood and Morris Bush, are keeping their fingers crossed that June 1 brings good news.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association is supposed to update its stance on what high schools can do amid COVID-19. If the MHSAA gets the approval to allow activities to resume, high school coaches and players can get back to doing what they love.

“I’m praying we will get good news on June 1,” said Bush, who is entering his first season on the job at Amanda Elzy. Bush is replacing Sheldon Hodge, who is retiring after 40 years of coaching and teaching in high school and college.

“I know it’s been disheartening to the kids not to be able to participate in spring sports, but we’ve got to understand what’s going on is serious,” Bush added. “The news that we receive on June 1 will determine what we get to do this summer. Because we will be going into the summer a little behind, my gut feeling is that the season may have a slight delay. But I truly expect us to be able to play.

“I’ve encouraged our kids to not just sit around and watch TV and eat hot chips. Get outside and get the blood flowing. Get as much exercise as they possibly can so they won’t be too far behind when we are able to get started.”

The Panthers made it to the third round of the Class 3A playoffs, falling 27-8 to Choctaw County to finish 9-4 overall.

Gatewood, who also serves as the chief of athletics for the school district, echoes Bush.

“We just want the kids to stay active and do what they can to improve their game from last year,” he said. “We also want them to be a better person on and off the field. While the coaches aren’t able to be around them much during this time, I trust they have good role models and will make the right decisions. It’s important that all the kids from each school are setting good examples.”

Gatewood and the Bulldogs finished 13-1 overall as they dropped a 31-14 decision to Corinth in the North 4A title game in 2019.

House said it’s hard to predict what will happen concerning the 2020 season.

“I do feel like there will be a season, but I know there are a lot of tough decisions to be made before we can have a season,” the veteran coach said. “Some schools will be ahead of others. I feel like we had a pretty good system in place before the virus hit. Some of our kids are working on their own. It’s not the same as being at the school under the supervision of coaches, but hopefully they are disciplined enough to continue to work hard.”

nContact Calvin Stevens at cstevens@gwcommonwealth.com.

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