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Early Birds adjust to Coronavirus

Mason Hutchison doing a Rocky IV inspired workout. (All Photos provided by Star Valley Football)

◆ SVHS Football players use what they have to “make it hurt a little.”

The end of a school year isn’t just the commencement of graduates and the start of new adventures, it also serves as the last chance teachers and coaches can interact with students and athletes before they disappear into the summer sun.

This year, that adjustment started early with the Coronavirus quarantine claiming the final ten weeks of school. For the 2020 Braves Football team it presented a question. Let an annual workout session pass? Or figure out how to make it work. More than 50 returning players committed to the latter.

Raf Green borrows his sister.

“An important part of our offseason the past few years has been the Early Bird,” said head football coach McKay Young as part of First Bank Sports Friday on Swift 98 and The Spur. “We bring the kids in before the end of school where we don’t do any football but we try and make it hurt a little bit. As the Coronavirus kept going on we kept getting indications that the kids still wanted to do something.

That something included a mix of the latest technology and old-school physical education. Utilizing Zoom, an online meeting platform, returning players were accountable to the staff for workouts in a visual form using whatever they had at their disposal.

“We had over 50 kids squatting goats and lifting telephone poles and bench-pressing siblings so it’s something I don’t think we’ll forget,” Young said.

It’s another chapter in a program that has matched the highest peak of a storied history. Winning four of the last five state championships, a 12-0 undefeated season in 2019 and a current 21-game winning streak. Young feels the players who have gone before have shown the way.

Waylon Nelson works up a sweat

“We’ve benefited from some fantastic football players over the years,” he continued. “The course has kind of been charted for them. They know what it took for our past players and the work that they have put in and the results they were able to reap from that work.”

Also on the horizon are those who would like to knock the Braves off their perch at the top of the 3A Football Classification.

“They know the kids in Jackson and Cody and Douglas are trying to get an edge on them so I’m super-proud of these kids,” he added. “Trying to teach this spring has been a struggle. The kids struggle to log in and get things in on time but as the sun is coming up they are all waiting for the Early Bird workout and they are logged in and ready to go. As a staff we kind of had to laugh. I think they have missed being together and that showed in the participation.”

• Moving Forward With Chemistry
School may be out, but plenty of questions remain as the calendar flips over to June. What kind of obstacles or adjustments might be in the cards for the Fall season?

“We’re just going to continue to take the lead from what the State Health people tell us to do,” Young added. “The way that our district interprets that. We have some limits on numbers and spacing constraints that we need to follow so it will be a process.” “Every couple of weeks the Governor seems to come out and tell us the best practice so we’ll do our best to develop our camaraderie and adjust the best we can.”

• Coming Back

Kysen Hebdon goes old-school irrigation

The 2019 Braves were an All-Time group. A total of 13 All-State selections, a school record for points scored, the first 12-0 team in program history and a current 21-game winning streak.
“We’re sure gonna miss the Class of 2020,” Young stated. “The offseason program and the camaraderie I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a better class than that.”

Young also knows the cupboard isn’t bare either with senior signal-caller Brant Nelson returning to try and add to his 21-0 mark as a starting quarterback. Joining him as a returning All-State selection will be Gabe Nield and Lucas Chapel on the line. Also in the mix will be JaAren Smith.

“The win streak came up at the spring meeting,” Young said. “The Jackson coach said something to the effect you better not lose before you play us. We know we have a target on our back and a lot of teams have some good young teams. A lot of them would like to end that streak.”

Young recalled a similar situation with the Braves in 2018 as they tried to recapture the 3A state title with only one returning starter.

“Will Johnson was the only returning starter and I mentioned that we could take some lumps early but we were confident that we’d have a good team by the end of the season,” Young said. “That’s what we’re hoping for with this team but hopefully by the end of October and November they will be rolling. it’s exciting.”

Derek Astle and a passel of posts.

Over the past several seasons the Braves Football team has been challenged by some top teams from out of state. Last year the Braves played defending state champs from Summit Academy and handily defeated eventual champion Sugar-Salem and 4A Runner-Up Blackfoot.

This year the team will face the Bears again to open the schedule with the squad from Bluffdale making the trip to Afton this time. Summit went (5-6) last season. The Braves will welcome back regional rival Preston as well with the Indians going (5-5) last season. The Braves will return to Sugar City to face the Diggers in what has turned into an annual match up of two of the top teams in their respective state.

2020 Football Schedule
Aug. 28 Vs Summit Academy
Sep. 4 Vs Preston
Sep. 11 @ Sugar-Salem
Sep. 18 Vs Rawlins
Sep. 25 @ Jackson
Oct. 2 @ Powell
Oct. 9 Vs Cody
Oct. 16 @ Evanston
Oct. 23 Vs Green River

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