The Friday night lights won’t turn on this fall for high school football teams in Illinois, with the coronavirus pandemic pushing their seasons to the spring. But preps coordinator COLIN LIKAS still keeps tabs on local programs. He walks with an area high school coach on his home field — socially distanced and wearing a mask — every week. Up next: Arcola coach Nick Lindsey.
Thinking back to earlier this fall, do you think we could have had at least a regular season for high school football in Illinois?
“Hindsight’s always 20/20. Even if we were able to play with contact tracing and kids being positive, you’re always battling something new every week. Looking back, I wish we could’ve played, especially the way things have transpired now, but I understand why the decision was made and those were the cards we were dealt, so we just have to work with what we had.”
Now we’re talking potential overlap between football, traditional spring sports and maybe basketball. Would that be feasible at Arcola?
“No, it wouldn’t work at all. I would hate for kids to have to make a choice. We try to make all our kids be multi-sport athletes as much as possible, and we’ve had a really good turnout with kids playing multiple sports, and I think it’s the best thing for them.”
In 2017, you took over a program that was two seasons removed from a Class 1A state title. What was that like for you?
“It had its challenges, but I’ll tell you what, I’d much rather be in a tradition-rich program than one that isn’t so much. Usually when you take over a position as a head coach, things have changed for a negative reason or there was changes that had to be made, and that wasn’t really the case when I got here. Zach (Zehr) had done a great job with the program and turned it over to me. Our kids are great. We don’t have to push them too much. They work hard and work hard in the classroom. So I think those are all things that good programs have.”
Zach Zehr now coaches at Tremont. Any chance we see a Purple Riders-Turks matchup in the regular season soon?
“I think there’s probably a chance in the playoffs someday. He’s a good friend of mine and we talk a lot, so it’d definitely be fun.”
You graduated many seniors from last year’s team that made the Class 1A quarterfinalis. Did the pandemic give you a little extra time to help some of the young kids prepare to step in?
“Yeah, I think by the end of our contact days that we used this fall, we were able to get a lot of our kids prepared and work through some of the nuances of our offense or defense in positions they haven’t been in. I’m looking forward to seeing what this group does, because I think nobody expects a whole lot because we graduated 17 seniors. I think our group’s pretty solid.”
Arcola is a football-rich school, having won four state titles. How has a fall without the sport impacted the town?
“It’s tough. You’ve got players, alumni and parents. As hard is it is on myself and the coaches and the kids, it’s even harder on our families and community. This is a football town, and people live for it.”