MUSKEGON, Mich. — For the first time since November 13, high school football is back in the state of Michigan.
"I told them when they were stretching, 'hey, welcome back from our long weekend,'" joked Oakridge head coach, Cary Harger.
When the season was shutdown again after the district championship round, several players at Oakridge thought their seasons and high school football career may be over.
"I honestly thought it was over," said senior Jacob Danicek, "I was crushed. I was sad about it but I moved on, I didn't think we were going to have a season at all."
Prior to the suspension of play, the Eagles had just won another district championship and outscored opponents 131-38 in the postseason.
"To get shut back down, especially with where we were, we were playing the best ball all year and just won the district title, it hurt. It sucked," said Oakridge junior Corey Vanderputte.
Monday afternoon was just as much about football as it was catching up with one another after over five weeks apart.
"Man, it was just great," Harger said, "I got pumped up just seeing their faces again. It was just great seeing them in person because even as a teacher here, when we do Zooms they don't have their video on, I'm just sitting there talking to black screens with names on it. They're back with their brothers, back with their team again, that's huge," he added.
The practice was filled with a lot of smiles and slower drills since the risk of injury is higher after the five weeks off.
"I haven't seen some of these boys in forever, since our last practice," Danicek said, "just to see their faces again it's so uplifting, it brought us all together."
Not only is it new for the coaches and players to be playing football in the months of December and January, they'll also be tested for COVID-19 three times a week, beginning on Wednesday.
"It's a rapid test, so it's a nasal swab and you put it on a card and it's supposed to instantly give you the results," Harger added, "they're supposed to be paid for by the health department."
It's a bit different from the COVID protocols at the start of the season.
"In the summer we were just temperature checked and had to take a questionnaire," Vanderputte said, "I've never been tested, so it'll be a new experience for me."
The Eagles will take on Grand Rapids Catholic Central on the road for a regional championship on January 2nd.