Quarantine, protests opens football season

Isabella Thomas, Sports Editor

On top of numerous sporting events being canceled or postponed this year, the PBC football season was affected as well. Even with many precautions, the sport proved to be a super-spreader of the virus. Yet, after the cancellation of the season, protests proved to be the remedy for its recovery. 

When ringing in the new school year, sports were put on hold. School districts and the Florida High School Athletic Association evaluated what should be done for sports seasons: the looming question of how to protect athletes was weighing on everyone’s mind. 

In a typical season, sports such as football would start pre-season conditioning in summer. However, this summer, Bronco Stadium was a ghost town. There was hope for a season, though, and the team had generated a schedule of games. It was very compact compared to prior years, with about half a dozen games. 

Several weeks after the school year leaped into action, new athletic eligibility packets were available for student-athletes, signifying the dawn of the new season. While these packets are imperative and compulsory at the start of every new season, this year’s packets had a new twist. 

On top of the standard school board packet with questions about insurance, physicals from a doctor, and the field trip permission form, the packet had a “COVID Release Form.” The form made a debut on the Palm Beach Central “BroncoNation” Athletics page on September 15, 2020. 

Early in the form, athletes and parents were greeted with this line: “For the safety of all people involved, participants in the Activity will be required to adhere to all safety protocols and are subject to immediate removal from the Activity if they do not comply.”

Additionally, parents were tasked with monitoring their children for signs of illness. They had to perform daily temperature checks on their child to screen for fever before arrival for the activity; until the athlete has been without a fever for at least 72 hours, they are not able to resume their sport. 

Furthermore, parents were tasked with doing a visual inspection of their child for signs of illness which could include: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, the new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, flushed cheeks, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing (without recent physical activity), fatigue, or extreme fussiness. Again, until the athlete has been without the preceding signs or symptoms for at least 72 hours, the athlete will not be able to participate in sports. 

Additionally, upon sending students to their practices, parents are confirming that their child has not been in contact with someone who has either tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days or is waiting for test results. If the child has been in contact with such a person, parents can not permit their child to participate in their sports until 14 days have elapsed since the time of contact. 

Finally, parents must promptly pick up their child or arrange for pickup if signs or symptoms of illness are present while at practice or a game. According to the COVID waiver, children are to remain home until illness-free for at least 72 hours without the use of medicine.

On top of the COVID waiver, student athletes are required to complete training courses from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). The courses required include sudden cardiac arrest, heat illness prevention, and concussion for students. 

Yet, with all the new precautions and training, the football team took a large hit at their senior night game against Glades Central; several coaches and 15 players walked away with the virus after this game on October 31, 2020. The game was rocky to begin with, given that the rain delays involuntarily had the players wait together on the bus they came in.

Amid contract tracing the players and attendees, the Palm Beach County School District revoked the Bronco Football regular season out of precaution. As stated in the COVID Release Form, sports are not guaranteed. 

“Extracurricular activities are a privilege, and not a right, of public school students,” said the Palm Beach County School District’s COVID waiver.

In response to the cancellation of the season, many football players rallied together and protested outside the School District building. Homemade signs read “let us play,” “give us games,” and on a more serious note, “we depend on games for scholarships.” 

There is a deeper reason as to why many players were so distressed over the cancellations. Whether it be for financial or academic reasons or even hopes to make it farther than playing in high school, some football players are anticipating recruitment and scholarships. 

“I’m relying on this. If I don’t play football, I may not be able to go to college,” said senior varsity football player Paul Saget. “I’m depending on a scholarship. I don’t know what I would do without it.”

Parents relate to the players’ feelings about scholarships as well. The lack of games and practices for the season already compromised the chance of scholarships, but with the cancellation of the rest of the season, players would be lacking the updated footage to show colleges in the coming months.

“If you sit out a year, that means a lot,” outlined Bronco Football parent Roosevelt Tessono. “If there’s no videos, no highlights, you’re not getting letters from schools.”

Some parents also hope for their player’s career to be successful past college, with hopes of going pro.

“We even have a few people as we speak now who are playing in the NFL,” started parent Steve Moss. “That’s every football player’s dream and it’s a one in a million shot, but if they’re not given the opportunity then we’re never going to know.”

Notably, the Bronco football team has had many Division 1 recruits: Tyler McDermott, Colorado State (Class of 2006); Pat O’Donnell, University of Miami (Class of 2008); Shane McDermott, University of Miami (Class of 2009); Jon Bostic, University of Florida (Class of 2009); KC McDermott, University of Miami (Class of 2014); Luis Peguero, South Dakota State (Class of 2014); Trey Jackson, South Dakota State (Class of 2018); Akeem Dent, Florida State (Class of 2019); Renato Brown, Louisville University (Class of 2019); and Bryan Robinson, Florida State (Class of 2020).

Of these Division 1 recruits, Pat O’Donnell (Chicago Bears), Shane McDermott (New York Giants), Jon Bostic (Washington Football Team), and KC McDermott (Jacksonville Jaguars) have gone to the NFL.

While the team was concerned about scholarships, they were troubled that other schools were able to resume their seasons once in the clear, with the exception of themselves. 

The players had been cleared to resume attending in-person classes, but not to continue their season.

“I had heard of other schools getting the virus, and they were allowed back after everyone was cleared. So I assumed once everyone was cleared, we would be allowed back,” explained junior varsity football player Ben Moss. “Weeks would pass, and they would keep canceling our games, and so that’s why we’re upset. I did not see this coming at all.”

The football team and their parents received a message on November 13th regarding the status of their season.

“As you are aware, several individuals involved with our football program have tested positive for COVID 19. Contact tracing protocols have been followed and the Department of Health continues to work closely with the school to validate and assess any future cases. In the meantime, the team will continue to quarantine and delay the re-engagement of practices and regular season games until at least November 29th.”

After the final player to be infected from the Halloween game was cleared by the Florida Department of Health, the Palm Beach County School District made the executive decision to resume the Bronco Football regular season. 

After resuming, the team finished their regular season schedule, and continued to show face in their postseason district games. 

The year 2020 was a whirlwind, and blatantly, so was the 2020 Bronco Football season. Yet, the team and their supporters pushed through their adversity and were allowed to do what they love most.

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