Osakis football coach Bill Infanger said after a practice last Thursday that success during the 2020 football season would be about much more than wins and losses for high school teams.
The reason for that is because there will inevitably be so much going on behind the scenes that don’t show up in a final score.
“There’s going to be a lot of weird things that happen this year with COVID and possibly outbreaks on teams,” Infanger said. “It will affect practice schedules and game schedules, so to really put all your onus on winning and losing isn’t really where it should be this year.”
The Osakis football team had a player out of practice that day with what Infanger said were mild symptoms. A day later on Oct. 2, the Silverstreaks received word that the team did have one positive COVID-19 case.
All varsity players and most of the varsity coaches will quarantine for 14 days. Players won’t attend in-person school and they can’t practice until the two-week period is over Oct. 16. The first two games of their season -- Oct. 9 at Browerville and Oct. 15 at home against Royalton -- have been canceled.
“I think the first thing (we told the players) is we all have to deal with the frustration and the emotion involved with the rollercoaster of a year this has been so far,” Infanger said. “Our message to the team was we have to work on the things we can control. . . . We need to stay in shape, even though we are going to be quarantined by ourselves. We’ll have some Zoom meetings or at least some video work as a team where guys can get mental reps on the plays. We just need to focus on our Week 3 opponent and come back with a lot of enthusiasm for hopefully the ability to play a game here.”
During its contact tracing, the Minnesota Department of Health asked school administrators to look back 48 hours from the first time the player showed symptoms to try to determine who he might have come in close contact with.
“We had to go back and look at Monday through Wednesday practices of who had been involved,” Infanger said. “We had three practice periods, and it was really hard to come up with basically anyone he couldn’t have been in contact with. We had a bunch of team drills and we were preparing for our first game against Browerville.”
All varsity players have been encouraged to get tested, but as of the afternoon of Oct. 5, there have been no other confirmed positive COVID-19 cases within the team.
Osakis does practice in separate varsity and junior varsity pods, so the junior varsity players were not deemed to be at risk. The junior varsity can continue practicing ahead of an Oct. 12 season opener against Browerville-Eagle Valley.
“The silver lining is thank goodness we were doing a pod style so half of our program can still go on and get some playing time and experience even though the varsity pod has to wait it out,” Infanger said.
The Silverstreaks will not reschedule the games against Browerville-Eagle Valley and Royalton, meaning Osakis has just four regular-season games to play starting on Oct. 23 at Holdingford.
“The way the Minnesota State High School League said this was going to go at the beginning of the year is those games won’t count as wins or losses,” Infanger said. “They just count as games not played. The way we understand it is the section seeding for playoffs is going to be based on coaches' vote. So coaches will just look at the body of four games hopefully that we’ll get to play at the end of the year and that’s what we’ll be seeded by.”
Infanger admits that it has been hard to remain positive at times throughout so many ups, downs and unknowns as it pertains to having a season.
His message to his players continues to be one of focusing on what they can control with road games at Holdingford (Oct. 23) and Morris (Nov. 6) and home contests with Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (Oct. 30) and Paynesville Area (Nov. 11) currently on the schedule.
“I think it goes back to how you gauge success or failure in a season like this, and just getting on the field and playing together as a team is a success,” Infanger said. “That’s what the kids ultimately want. It’s so hard not to get discouraged, but we need to accept it, move on and look forward to week three and try to get there.”