FISHER — Drive past the Fisher football practice field off Route 136 in the early evening hours this week and you’ll notice something different near the high school in northern Champaign County.
Fisher coach Jake Palmer said the father of Fisher kicker Andrew Ferguson donated portable lights that are set up this week on the swath of grass Fisher uses for its practices located right next to the high school.
“This is the first time we’ve ever had to do something like this,” said Palmer, in his fourth season coaching the Bunnies and who has Fisher back in the second round of the Class 1A playoffs for the second straight season. “With so many of our assistant coaches working outside the school, we don’t start practice until 4 p.m. and go until about 6 p.m. But with the time change, it’s dark around 4:45, so the lights are really crucial. The playoffs bring a whole different set of challenges when it comes to the teams you’re playing, but as an athlete, making these sorts of memories is what you remember.”
Like practicing in the snow, too. Last Thursday’s snowfall saw the Bunnies working on tackling drills in the white fluff on Halloween.
“I’ve never had a team do that before, either,” Palmer said.
Fisher (8-2) won’t play in the familiar confines of Kellar Field this Saturday. The Bunnies travel to Moweaqua for a 1 p.m. kickoff against top-ranked Central A&M (10-0) after Fisher defeated Cumberland 26-14 last Saturday at home in a first-round playoff game.
The task of trying to defeat the undefeated Raiders — who beat three 2A playoff teams and one 4A playoff team in the regular season — is steep. Add in a road game and all the logistics that come with it, too, makes for a busy week for the Bunnies.
“One thing I do when we’re on the road is I make sure the players check that they have every single piece of equipment they’ll need before we leave,” Palmer said. “That’s the last thing you want to have happen is you’re dealing with an equipment issue when you get there.”
Then, there’s the issue of making sure the players eat before the 1 p.m. kickoff, especially with Fisher planning on leaving around 9 a.m. on Saturday to make the 75-minute bus ride to Moweaqua.
But Palmer said he can rely on what he calls “a great group of football moms,” for making sure the Bunnies are well-fed before each playoff game.
Last Saturday’s 2 p.m. home kickoff with Cumberland saw the Bunnies gather at the school around 10 a.m. to eat bagels, which a team mother provided.
“We want to make sure they’re full and fueled before the game,” Palmer said, “but you want it to be something light where they’re not bogged down either.”
This Saturday’s menu? The Fisher moms are busy working on what Palmer is calling brunch, with prep work underway for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola bars, water and Gatorade for every Fisher player to consume around the halfway point of their drive to Moweaqua.
All of these efforts may not make the headlines the way a long touchdown run by Fisher running back Tyler Wilson or touchdown pass by Fisher quarterback Will Delaney does. But Palmer understands the importance of these moments.
“Just all that extra stuff that goes into the week before the game and all these moments you get to share with so many different people,” Palmer said, “is what makes the playoffs very unique and so special.”