The MC football team has returned to the practice field for a “fall practice” slate. They are then scheduled to culminate their offseason practice with a White vs Gold fall game on Saturday, Nov. 7 at noon. Normally, a football team will have a spring practice slate in the spring, and then play their season in the fall, but due to COVID-19, that has all changed.
When COVID-19 hit in March, that made spring practice impossible. Then when the NCAA cancelled all fall sport national championships, the GSC postponed football until at least Jan. 1, 2021. With a potential spring season on the horizon, MC opted to have a four-week offseason practice slate in the fall. Practices began on Monday, Oct. 12, and MC will have several practices a week. They will run through Nov. 6 before the fall game on Nov. 7.
Senior linebacker Jonathan Jones says the fall practice will be important for getting the freshman class implemented into the system, while also allowing more time for the team in general to be more prepared, saying, “Our expectations and goals are to get the young guys in and learn quickly. Try to get them to be the best. We have a nice senior class going out, and we had a big freshman class coming in. We just want to teach the guys up and be fellow leaders, the guys that are seniors, to try and get them to come in and learn fast. With COVID taking place, it gives us enough time so they can come in and learn and be able to take it slow, step by step. COVID also allowed us to be prepared and allowed the coaches to gameplan more, allow them to also install new methods so that we can get better in each area that we were weak in last year.”
MC head coach John Bland believes the practices will be good for his team to finally get back on the field, and that they are just trying to make it as normal as possible. “Regarding practice, we’re trying to make it as normal as we can. Some of the things we do usually in the spring, now we’re doing in the fall. Instead of spring ball, we’re calling it ‘fall ball.’ Everything we’re doing is just for us to get better. To be able to evaluate some guys, and it’s good for the mental health of the guys. They come here for school and to get a great degree from Mississippi College, but they also love football. And so to be able to get out there and play is good for morale and for their mental health. That’s been really good for us, although we have to go through the protocols, which is very important for the safety of our players and our community.”
Coach Bland also believes that the pandemic has made communication and leadership with his team difficult with everyone having to be separated so much, saying, “It’s very difficult. It’s a challenge. The leadership has been probably one of the most difficult things to deal with. To be a leader, you have to have followers and be able to see people face to face. You have to work together and show your leadership through hard work. With this pandemic, what it’s done is separate people and it’s made people isolate. It’s been more difficult to lead. It’s hard to lead on a zoom meeting or by messaging through the phones and computers. It’s been very difficult, and it’s made it difficult with school although we are able to get things done online. It’s so much better if you can learn in the classroom. It’s been a challenge for sure, but our guys have done a good job.”
The fall game will give an opportunity for the Choctaws to have a gameday-like experience and will give the coaches an opportunity to see how their players react and play in a game-like situation. Coach Bland says, “We are just going to have some fun. We will also be able to evaluate and see kids play. For the most part, it will be fun for the players to be able to compete. Right now we would be playing ball games …You just have to keep the morale up as best we can, and because of that, that spring game will mean an awful lot.”
Jones adds, “I’m really hyped up. I’m really looking forward to getting to play. COVID has taken a big toll on everybody, so having the patience and really wanting to get out there and play. We haven’t really done anything besides practice.So that gameday feeling is going to be good and bring some good intensity. Being able to hang with the guys, it’s going to be a wonderful day to get into. I know the coaches are amped up and we are amped up. And I know this whole school, they’re ready to see us play.”
MC is looking to use this fall slate to build off of last year’s 5-5 season where they went 4-4 in the GSC and also went undefeated at home. The GSC has yet to announce whether there will be a football season in the spring or if the Choctaws will have to wait until next fall to play.