CLEVER, Mo. — Monday marked the first day of high school football practice across the state of Missouri.
The Missouri State High School Activities Association is planning on a normal fall sports season in this abnormal year.
It might just be day one of practice, but the Clever Blue Jays are all set for the 2020 season.
“I’m ready. I just want to go out and compete,” Clever senior wide receiver David Maddox said.
“When we first start playing football, it’s the first thought everyone has, being in the Friday night spotlight,” Clever senior lineman Sam Sinclair said.
The Friday night lights will shine a little bit brighter in Clever this fall. On August 28th the Blue Jays will open against Willow Springs in the school’s first varsity football game.
“A lot of people say ‘I didn’t know Clever had a football team’. We’ve been going five years,” Clever head coach Jeff Stone said. “For us it feels like everybody else in Southwest Missouri, we haven’t played a varsity football game, but I would say there is no difference in our practice and anybody else’s.”
Clever started its program in 2016 working with elementary and middle school students. In 2019, the Blue Jays fielded a JV team with freshman, sophomores and juniors.
“To me at least, every team sees us as they have never played a varsity season before, they don’t know what’s coming,” Sinclair said. “It gives us a bigger chance to prove ourselves and show how hard we work.”
“They aren’t proven on Friday nights, but I know they are great kids,” Stone said. “They are invested and they have put work in the process.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the football season, and its length, remains an unknown.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t let my mind go there,” Stone said. “I’m doing absolutely everything I can do to ensure we have a season this year and I’m not going to let my mind think about us not having a season.”
“I just do everything I can to control what I can control,” Maddox said. “Wear a mask in public, don’t gather in big crowds. Just do everything I can to play this season.”
Whatever it takes to buckle the chinstraps at the end of the month.
“I hope it’s special for the community, but for our kids I hope they treat it like a football game and go out there and compete,” Stone said.
“Regardless we are just excited to get out there and play,” Sinclair said. “We are thankful that we get the chance to play.”