Special to Elmore Autauga News
Just when Brian Bradford gets Stanhope Elmore moving in the right direction the coronavirus hits. Bradford became head football coach in 2017. Since arriving he has taken the Mustangs to the playoffs every year. The Mustangs were 5-6 in 2017, 6-5 in 2018, and 9-3 last year.
The one word he uses to describe the impact of the coronavirus is chaos. “What else can you say? Nothing but uncertainty. We were having the best offseason we could hope for. Everything was going great,” Bradford said. “And then players are gone and we can’t see them again.”
Even if things get back to normal before the season starts, high school football is already behind before the first kickoff. It’s doubtful anyone will catch up to where they need to be. “The difficult thing is no spring training. That’s the time you try new stuff. You see what may work and you can evaluate your team. If that goes well then you can spend the summer studying what you have to work with and what may be a good course of action for your team.” Bradford explained. “Now, we start the summer without any of that. From here until the first game there will be a lot of guesswork.”
The Mustangs coach said they have been communicating from a distance with the players and trying to tell the players what they need to do to remain ready. That inability to see your players immediately causes concern about conditioning. “The biggest setback of all is the lack of supervised conditioning. Without the recent months of supervision there is a chance the players will be out of shape. We first must make sure we are in the condition to play and that will be the top priority when the guys can come back. It’s one thing to go out and run by yourself or workout by yourself. But when you do it with your team it is more effective. It means more,” Bradford explained. “When we get back we must get in shape before we can look at offense or defense. We will have to take as long as it takes for conditioning.”
Players can return for various conditioning drills on June 1. The magic day for football practice to begin is July 27 according to the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA). A major challenge for high school football will be adhering to all safety rules. Bradford said the Mustangs staff has already prepared for and is ready for the obvious. “We are going to screen players and do whatever is required to get ready for football season. We do not have all guidelines yet, but we will follow them all and do what we are supposed to do. No doubt, the time leading up to this season will be like no other,” Bradford said.
The first game for the Mustangs will be on the road to play Selma on August 21.
Bradford said he is excited about the season even though things have been shaky and unusual due to the coronavirus. The top Mustang has a great deal of faith in his players. “I love our chances this year. We got great kids with a lot of character, and they are dedicated. We lost a lot of seniors, but our team is filled with talent and a lot of promise,” Bradford said.