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Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette All-Area football Coach of the Year photo with Paxton-Buckley-Loda's Josh Pritchard, at the team's field in Paxton on on Wednesday, Dec.18, 2019.Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette ° All-Area football Coach of the Year photo with Paxton-Buckley-Loda's Josh Pritchard, at the team's field in Paxton on on Wednesday, Dec.18, 2019.

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JOSH PRITCHARD‘s first run with Paxton-Buckley-Loda football resulted in two playoff victories and News-Gazette All-Area Coach of the Year honors. Now, he’s readying for multiple key graduations amid a pandemic:

Do you consider yourself lucky to have a full season with the team under your belt given the current situation?

Yeah, very much so. I actually have a couple friends I went to high school with that just got head-coaching jobs across the state. I’ve talked with them quite a bit, and I said, “I’m glad I’m where I’m at now,” because at least I’ve had that year to be able to contact the kids. To talk about it and try to get things figured out, where they haven’t been able to even meet with their players. They’re still trying to figure out how to get a hold of all of them, and then obviously having to put in a new playbook. I’ve been fortunate that our stuff is in, and we just have to figure out how much our kids have retained from last year.

How have you seen excitement carry over from last year’s results?

It’s pretty exciting during the time, but even going into (the new season), we’ve had a few players that signed up that didn’t play this past season. ... It’s one of those things, winning always brings more kids out and we hope we can continue that. But I’ve got players contacting me all the time about they’re wanting to throw this and what are we going to do, are we going to be able to go to this camp or that camp. It’s just different things that I have to tell them as much as I know. The excitement is definitely there, and I think our kids are already hoping we can have some kind of summer activities. But at worst, obviously, we want to have a fall season.

Does the current suspension of summer contact days cause you any worry?

Yes and no. Obviously we lost quite a few seniors, so we were going to have a pretty young team coming in overall with not a lot of playing time. I’d love the summer activities to try and install more stuff to put into their minds. But I have plenty of kids that go out, and they throw the ball around and they work out by themselves. I think most coaches would say you can only give kids so many workouts anyway, and they do what they want to do. I feel like my players are doing what’s best for the team, and they’re all preparing like we’re going to have a season. I’ve already talked with our (boys’) basketball coach, Coach (Adam) Schonauer. We’ve already tried to decide some dates if we’re allowed to have contact days in July because we share so many athletes.

Now that you’ve had time to integrate yourself in the PBL community, what does it mean to be part of it?

It’s been, obviously, really fun. I’ve had parents contacting me, thanking me for what I did this season. And I’m like, “You know, I’m just a football coach and really trying to drive these kids along as much as I can.” But I’ll tell you, (the community has) helped me along so much, whether it’s finding places to live, places to eat, places to shop. My wife and I just had a baby in early January, so I’ve gotten so many congratulation texts and stuff like that. So it’s been awesome. This has been fun. I’ve been able to watch him grow up. But I think we’d all rather be at school and working, too.

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).