CLEVER, Mo– It’s week one of the high school football season.
Sports has been beaten up by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But high schools are hoping to get some normalcy through football.
KOLR 10’S Matt Vereen joins us live from Clever.
Dan, it’s already been an unprecedented sports year.
With the ongoing pandemic, we weren’t certain whether we’d even get a high school football season this fall.
But that rings double true here in Clever, where they’ve never even seen their school play a varsity football game – until tonight.
It’s a kickoff years in the making.
“Not really butterflies, I’m just kind of ready. I want to play. I want to play football – our first Friday night football game,” said Bryce Gelle.
Back in 2016, Clever High School took the first step toward football: Starting up teams with elementary and middle school kids.
Then, last year – they started playing j-v football with freshman, sophomores and juniors.
Now, four years after that first step, Clever is finally getting it’s first varsity football game in school history.
“I mean, it’s been a learning curve for everybody, players and coaches. We’re just really excited to get out there and prove ourselves on Friday night,” said Drew Hanafil.
And when they look back at all the work it took to get to this kickoff, the Blue Jays can’t help but acknowledge all the learning they had to do.
Gelle: “When I went out, I couldn’t even throw a football. It was really bad. It’s been a long journey just because of going through all that work and just the process and stuff. But it’s been fun.”
“I’d say there’s a lot of times they know more than me now. We have the kind of relationship where they can say, ‘Coach, you’re not even right’ or ‘That guys not eligible.’ And I’m like, man two years ago you didn’t even know how to play,” said head coach Jeff Stone.
For seniors like Gelle and Hanafil, all the work was for just one season.
A season which they didn’t even know if they’d get due to Covid-19.
“I mean, it’s really exciting just because with all this pandemic stuff we didn’t even know if we were going to have a football season. So it’s exciting to be able to come out here and play with these guys and experience the senior season,” said Gelle.
But now kickoff is here – not just for the team.
But for the community as well.
“Even if I’m wearing my football t-shirt out in public, they tell us they’ll be there supporting us on Friday night. It’s really special,” said Hanafil.
Stone: “I don’t want to overstate the moment, but football brings the community together more than any other sport. Clever hasn’t seen that on a Friday night and they’re about to in three days. But to see everybody come together cheering for their team, I think it’s going to be a real special moment. I know our fans are going to walk away happy.”
Now, Stone also made it clear – he’s been working to keep his team level headed for tonight.
He told me this journey hasn’t been about just one game – it’s been about building a program he wants to outlive him.
But that program’s first entry in the history books is just 30 minutes away as the Blue Jays take on Willow Springs tonight in our game of the week.
We’ll have highlights tonight at 10 – but for now reporting live from Clever, Matt Vereen – Ozarksfirst.