Coach Sayre Nesmith’s cell phone rang during a football practice session at Mauldin High School last Wednesday.

In the COVID-19 era, a call from a number a coach doesn’t recognize during game week can make them nervous.

It was the call he feared … the Mavericks week 0 game in York had been canceled due to a COVID-19 problem in the York dressing room.

“It was difficult for us because I had to keep it under lock and key until the end of training. We were preparing for York and even though I knew we weren’t going to play against them, we still implemented our game plan against them, ”he said. “I’m not going to lie … the motivation for me was diminished, but we continued and after that the boys were of course extremely disappointed.”

The cancellation or postponement of games and practice was a weekly event in Greenville County and across South Carolina last season. During the off-season, COVID-19 numbers declined in the region and vaccines came onto the market. It looked like coaches and players couldn’t look over their shoulders without wondering if they could play this Friday.

You weren’t so lucky.

In addition to Mauldin’s game, the matchup between Wade Hampton and Easley was postponed to Monday when it was later canceled due to a positive test in the generals’ program. Daniel’s game against West Ashley was also canceled.

The Spartanburg area is also affected. Landrum’s Week 0 game against Buford was canceled, as was Union County’s game against Chester.

Ahead of the season, Dorman coach David Gutshall predicted what has happened so far and said that while some restrictions were lifted, COVID-19 has not yet gone from our lives.

“We have concerns, I also watch the news at night,” he said. “The numbers are increasing and what we went through last year with just six soccer games, not 7v7, affects all soccer teams. To say that everything is behind us is not true, so we have concerns. “

What now?

It’s difficult to tell a group of high school players who weren’t promised much time on the football field that one of their games was canceled, but that was what Nesmith had to do.

He entered the conversation knowing that he would not find the right combination of words to put things right, so he decided to focus on the bigger goals Mauldin has.

“I told them we had to focus on the process and it was hard to hear but we still got better that day,” he said. “Even though we didn’t want to play against York, we still got better by working on ourselves.”

This was followed by a scramble that anyone who trained in 2020 is all too familiar with – trying to find an opponent for Friday.

In the end, Nesmith didn’t have enough time. He said the Mavericks will plan to fill their bye week (week 8) with a non-regional game, but admitted that it will be difficult since week 8 is the heart of the region game.

He knows he has to try to give his players at least 10 games after nobody played that many last season.

“From here on, if something happens and it happens again … if we don’t know when to play a game again, we’ll try to get a game off the ground until the last second,” said Nesmith. “Football is a big part of filming, scouting reporting, preparation, reporting, but at the end of the day you think about the kids and their time in high school and think, ‘I think any game is better than no game.’ “

Landrum trainer Jason Farmer remembers the juggling act from last season’s game plan well. Before the season started, he said that the phrase “day by day” was being taken very literally in 2020.

“Everything was an awkward situation last year. We were there every day and we didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “Last year I looked at the team on a Friday and said, ‘Guys, we’re going to play West Oak next week’ because we were open and West Oak needed an opponent. Then on Monday I told them we weren’t Play West Oak. “

This season he would have to tell them the same thing before week 0 as a positive COVID-19 within the program forced the Cardinals to cancel their game in Buford.

Union County’s game against Chester was also canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test under the Union County’s program.

Ahead of the season, Union County coach Brain Thompson also warned the pandemic was not over.

“We don’t know anything, we hope we have 10 games,” he said. “I hope we’re really smart, the guys are smart, and we’re taking precautions.

Landrum is said to be still hosting Christ Church on Friday, and Cavaliers’ manager Quin Hatfield said he had already spoken to his team about the importance of playing as much football as possible.

“Your natural reaction is that you feel bad about these teams (who canceled games) because you know they put a lot of work into it,” he said. “There’s some of that ‘oh man, here we go’ too, but it allows us to use these situations as examples to reinforce what we’re trying to do, which is to control it as best we can, so that we can can keep going out and playing the game we love. “

Stop the spread

With a week of football in the books, every team in South Carolina was announced like last season, games can be canceled or postponed at any time.

Having made the second round of the Class AA playoffs last season, Hatfield does not want to put the Cavaliers’ momentum at risk in his sophomore year as a coach due to COVID-19.

“The first thing we do is accept the protocols we have as a school, whenever we are inside, we wear masks: weight room, movie room, classroom, locker room, and we want to be the models for all of the other students Christ Church, “he said, how many people are there in a small room? Think about the situations you get yourself into.”

Nesmith has also ramped up the logs for his team, despite the fact that it wasn’t a positive test in the Mauldin locker room that resulted in his game being canceled.

The Mavericks are due to receive Spartanburg on Friday, and to avoid locker room time, Nesmith said the team will prepare for the game at one of Freeman Field’s gyms after the move.

During the week when a meeting is indoors it is limited to a maximum of 14 minutes to avoid exposure and he said the coaches keep players three feet apart when they are outside when they are on the sidelines .

Still, he knows that no one can be completely free from an outbreak.

“We try to do everything we can so that it is not our fault if a game is canceled, but York did the same,” he said. “It was something else that was out of their control, but we will control what we can control so that we as coaches and players are not to blame.

“We tell the children every day that you shouldn’t just think about it while playing football, but that you should also have it in the back of your mind at lunch, at someone’s home on the weekend, just think about it all the time. Nobody wants to be the one to turn everyone off. “

Hatfield said the loose masking requirements over the summer made him feel like the pandemic was in the rearview mirror. Now he understands that 2021 is not much different than 2020.

That could mean that his players have to forego comfort for security reasons. That’s fine with him because he said he knew that sometimes great football teams can’t always be comfortable.

“We try to do our best every day, make the best decisions we can make and do some things we don’t necessarily want to do, like wear a mask,” he said. “We do it because we feel like it protects us and gives us the opportunity to do what we love.”