TENNERTON – Following a delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first day of high school football practice finally arrived for teams across the state Monday afternoon.
For veteran Buckhannon-Upshur head coach Duane Stoeckle, he welcomed 51 players to the first day of camp at Freal “Red” Crites Memorial Stadium.
Stoeckle, who is starting his eighth year as mentor of the Buccaneers, is looking to improve on last year’s mark of 1-9 as a young team suffered through bad breaks and injuries during the 2019 season.
“The beautiful thing about teaching and coaching is each year has an end and each year has a new beginning,” remarked Stoeckle. “Whatever you did before doesn’t really effect the here and now. Even with all the questions we have surrounding football this year we are really excited. An old coach of mine used to say the past is set in stone, but the future is a blank canvas.”
The Bucs, like all teams across the state, will follow stringent guidelines set by the state as the pandemic continues.
Stoeckle said though for the players that participated in the summer conditioning program, the abiding by the guidelines has become second nature for many of his players.
“For the guys who have been attending through each phase during the summer, all the new COVID-19 rules are second nature by now,” stated Stoeckle. “For example, they’ll spray down their bench, wipe down the weights, and wear their masks when spotting a teammate, pretty much without us having to remind them.”
Stoeckle said that during this first week, he wants his team to build on what they accomplished during the summer phases.
“Really, we want to pick up where we left with the July three-week period,” remarked Stoeckle. “Our guys really came in and worked hard and started to really pick up the offense, defense along with their conditioning. They also really started to support each other. An example of that is when Jessie Hackett was going for 300 pounds on his max bench last week. All our players gathered around him and cheered and inspired him to do it. It was really pretty cool! This first week, we want for our guys to fight, overcome, and believe TOGETHER. We are also going to see which players have a great attitude and work ethic this first week.”
Stoeckle also said that every position is wide open as the Bucs start the new year.
“With so many underclassmen, every position is wide open,” said Stoeckle. “We will play the best guys regardless of class.”
Stoeckle and the Bucs will have two new faces on the sidelines this fall as Keith Nichols and Wilson Harvey will join the coaching staff.
Stoeckle stated that he and his staff are happy to be back on the field coaching, despite the unusual nature of things during a pandemic.
“The health and well-being of our players is of the utmost importance to our coaching staff,” stated Stoeckle. “We want our players to be safe, but we also want them to have the opportunity to play this great game. We have so many new and younger players, but it always nice to see how they develop their potential over the course of the season. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to see what they can do. Go Bucs!”
The Bucs will open their season Sept. 4 when they host the Ripley Vikings at 7:30 p.m.