SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The off-season has stretched on a bit longer than usual for Evangel Football and Head Coach Chuck Hepola.
Long enough for him to switch some focus from the football field, to the one at his house.
“My yard is looking great,” Hepola said laughing. “I’m proud of it.”
Finally, however, Hepola and the Crusaders know what day they’ll be back in pads for full practice: August 15th.
“It was hard to move forward. I even told some of my coaches you’re afraid to get too far ahead, because you get too far ahead and you’re really reinventing the wheel. So I had to kind of slow down a little bit. But now it’s speed back up and get it ready.”
With the first two weeks of the season scratched, that gives the team four weeks of preparation before the home opener.
Hepola, though, is confident that’s plenty of time.
“Yeah, actually it’s more practice dates than we normally get. From a practice standpoint, we’re thrilled to death to have those many days.
Until then though, Evangel, like most other schools, is in voluntary workout mode with about 30 players in town at the moment.
While they are limiting numbers and screening athletes for symptoms, though, they don’t currently have access to COVID-19 testing.
“We are checking their temperatures, asking them have they been around somebody with COVID, have they had COVID. But actual testing, we have not done that yet. You know the testing side of that, it’s extremely expensive. But it’s also something that needs to be done. Obviously, our university is looking into all the different things that we can do.”
For now, though, Hepola says they’ve had no issues.
Still, he’s making sure not to pressure players to come to workouts.
“I have had a player that contacted me one morning and said, ‘Coach, I just don’t feel well. I think it’s allergies, but I don’t feel well.’ I said don’t come. And so, I think that’s the common sense approach. When we see a player that maybe doesn’t feel well or something like that, rather than making them feel guilty about not feeling well, you say absolutely. No problem. Take whatever you need. Get yourself better. And then get back here as soon as you can. We’ve just got to use a common sense approach on all this stuff.”
And even with all the precautions, he’s just excited to finally be working toward football season.
“I just wish it was an eleven game season, but I can promise you this: nine games is better than zero games. So I’m excited to be able to play.”