In the middle of an ongoing pandemic, schedules have changed, some camps have been cancelled and Coach Jeff Shore will take everything he can get to help his team prepare for a new season following a trip to the state quarterfinals.

It has been a different kind of summer for the Camdenton Lakers. 

In the middle of an ongoing pandemic, schedules have changed, some camps have been cancelled and Coach Jeff Shore will take everything he can get to help his team prepare for a new season following a trip to the state quarterfinals. 

“I think the mindset is you just have to determine that you are going to roll with the punches on it,” the coach said of navigating the pandemic. “It is an ever-changing schedule kind of, but you just have to get your mindset that it is going to be the way it is so just do the best you can to adjust and not let that bother you too much. Try to get in as much as you can to try to get the kids ready to go.” 

And just by basic human nature, the idea that something can be lost or taken away would surely make anyone appreciate it that much more and football is no exception. That especially rings true for seniors like Cooper Ezard who saw the last class of seniors have their spring sports cancelled.  

“Just take every moment and don’t let anything go for granted because this is our last year and last shot,” he said. “We might not even get a season so we have to give it everything we got.” 

And it is also in the nature of human beings to be social so that is why seniors like Jadin Faulconer are appreciating the opportunity to be with teammates doing something they love. When schools across the state of Missouri were shut down last March, isolation through the practice of social distancing became a reality for many. That is one of the reasons he will look to play each game like it is his last with the hopes of getting a full season in because at any time it could be. 

“It is just a brotherhood and different at Camdenton. You go anywhere else and it is not like it is here,” Faulconer pointed out. “Just being surrounded by your brothers and guys we have grown up with, everyone playing together, that is special.” 

Knowing how long their players have worked for, Shore and his staff are enjoying each day that is granted with their players on the gridiron as well and they emphasize that opportunity. 

“Coach (Shawn) Maschino I think pointed it out best- really the lesson is enjoy every day you are playing football because at this age it is something very important to these kids. It is something they’ve wanted to do their whole lives and they’re looking forward to it,” Shore remarked. “The prospect of potentially not playing, that is tough to face so every day you have practice it makes you enjoy practice more. Just that enjoyment of trying to play the best you can every moment you get because it is uncertain times right now.” 

Embracing every moment on the field so far this summer, Shore noted that many practices have focused on game-like situations in order to make sure players attain the experience they need. There will be seniors with more playing time than last year and newcomers hoping to be ready for their first kickoff beneath the Friday night lights.  

“I want them to get to play some football. It is not lost on me that this thing could get cancelled at some point in time,” he said. “We sure hope not, but I want them to actually play and try to do more game situations in practice right now.” 

Through it all, the coach took time to credit the efforts of trainer Josh Lambert to keep things sanitary and any kind of report of illness is not taken lightly with the program remaining on the side of caution and not having that player at practice. The program will simply just look to move forward the best it can.

“Football is football, you are going to have to play and have contact,” Shore said. “We are trying to do best we can like anybody else, but if you are going to play it you are going to be around each other and that is the only way you can play it.” 

For now, there is still football to be played and the coach knows a full season would mean everything to the seniors and all the younger players who have put in their time and energy to make it happen because there are so many potential cherishing memories and bonds the game can provide. Ezard and Faulconer are grateful for the memories they’ve already attained and whatever happens in the midst of the pandemic, there are a few things they’d just like the rest of the team to know.  

“Keep practicing hard, keep going hard, go do weights and just keep going at it,” Ezard said, offering words of advice. 

Faulconer’s message was a little more simple. 

“21 is always going to be open,” he said with a smile.

Editor's Note: This is the second story in a four-part series focusing on how the football programs at Osage, Camdenton, Versailles and Eldon have handled summer activities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the number of people involved in any football program, the sport may be a good microcosm for how well sports can operate during the pandemic.