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It Just Feels Weird

  • Marion's Kerry Martin won't be roaming the sideline this Friday night or any in the fall -- as the IHSA moved the high-risk sport to the spring portion of its calendar.

    Marion's Kerry Martin won't be roaming the sideline this Friday night or any in the fall -- as the IHSA moved the high-risk sport to the spring portion of its calendar.

By Spyder Dann
updated: 8/28/2020 5:29 PM

It was a warm August evening and vividly Kerry Martin can remember working his 2-7 p.m. shift at the Carbondale Wal-Mart.
That was 1985 and Martin was a junior at Southern Illinois University. It was also the last time the longest-tenured football coach in the deep south wasn't roaming the sidelines on a Friday night.
Friday night should have been Week 1 for high school football in Illinois and while some fields might have been lit, there was nobody home.
The postponement of high school football in Illinois came to a crescendo July 29th when the Illinois High School Association deemed the sport "high-risk" and moved it a modified calendar, where it will be played in the spring.
However, neighboring states, such as Missouri and Indiana are going off without a hitch and no changes to its schedule, according to the NFHS. Tennessee is already in its second week of football and Kentucky is expected to kick off September 11.
Martin said the mindset that last night would have been "game night" is something foreign to him now.
"It doesn't feel like game night at all because we haven't practiced and school is even different. So, it does feel very weird, but there is nothing 'normal' about 2020"
Martin who has spent the last 18 years at Marion High School, wining .636 percent of his games, going 119-68 in that span, spent Friday night picking up one more victory -- only this one came off the field.
"We had a slumber party with my two-year-old grandson and it couldn't have been a better time."
Du Quoin's Derek Beard, like many other coaches, admits they can't remember having a late August Friday night off. Still, the Indian alum, spent his Friday night doing the only thing he knows -- watching film.
"This is different, I know that is for sure," Beard said. "I pretty much reviewed defensive alignments from all of the 2019 season."
Harrisburg's Gabe Angelly echoed many of the same sentiments shared by Beard. On the flip side, Angelly was preparing to make a three-plus hour bus ride to Cerro Gorodo. For good measure, Angelly had an countdown app on his phone. Despite the cancellation, Angelly never turned off the app.
"Ever since we scheduled this game (Cerro Gordo), I've had this countdown on and our kids have been ready to get back on the field. It just wasn't the same feeling at 7 p.m. Friday Night Lights will be missed."
If nothing else, the time off has allowed Benton coach Justin Groves to put some matters into perspective, one of those being able to spend much needed time with family.
"My daughter (Ava) is a freshmen and she plays golf at Benton. It's been nice to be able to watch her play, and spend time with her in the evenings at the range. There wouldn't have been many opportunities for that in a normal year.
"Friday night was a time to be with the family, I don't feel the need to fill my time with anything specific. Use the opportunity to rest a little and prepare for what will hopefully be an exciting spring football season. Now, THAT feels weird to say!"
According to the revised schedule, Illinois high school football teams can begin practice on February 15 and the season will end on May 1st. Instead of a nine-week schedule, schools had to modify to play only seven games.

Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois LOCAL Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.