MINFORD — Coming off their first playoff appearance since 2012, the Minford Falcons’ football off-season has been anything but conventional.
Beginning in March with Ohio’s stay-at-home orders aimed at helping slow the spread of COVID-19 all the way through Minford’s media day on Saturday, the Falcons’ off-season has been — just as their southern Ohio competition — uncertain.
Prior to the start of games during what would have been the official start of practice, Minford’s time getting ready for the season was severely hampered by a positive confirmed coronavirus case, preventing its first full-contact practice until August 21 — a day before the Falcons’ first scrimmage.
Seniors Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis and Matthew Risner spoke to some of the challenges their team has faced in preparation for the season.
“It’s been pretty tough,” Vogelsong-Lewis said. “We’ve been off for two weeks and didn’t have that much time to prepare, but we’ve just been working with what we have and giving it all we’ve got.”
“This summer it was real tough because we didn’t know what we were going to get during the season,” Risner said. “We didn’t know if we were going to get to play or if everything was going to get cancelled. But we still came every day and put all our hard work in.”
Vogelsong-Lewis and Risner were vital as juniors in helping the Falcons qualify for their first OHSAA playoff appearance since 2012 when Minford was a Division V program.
In their third year as Falcons, Risner and Vogelsong-Lewis were named Division V all-Ohio performers as a defensive back and quarterback, respectively.
After a year of playing postseason football and learning from the experience of what it took to get there, Vogelsong-Lewis and Risner believe they can use their lessons in preparing for a postseason in which each team in the state has already qualified, per the OHSAA Board of Directors’ vote in early August.
“I think that all the seniors should take a lesson from last year,” Vogelsong-Lewis said. “And this year since we get to make the playoffs, we should have some experience coming into it.”
“I think making the playoffs was one of the best things,” Risner said. “Since Minford hadn’t been in several years before that, I think it was a real good thing for all of us. I think we learned for this year that we won’t be as nervous or anything going into that game.”
In addition to their unforeseen circumstances, the Falcons are also attempting to fill key losses due to graduation.
Fellow senior Seth Simpson is the lone returning lineman who started for the Falcons during last year’s playoff push.
While the line may be a point of emphasis for improvement as the season progresses, the two senior captains pointed to their returning experience at skill positions and their hard work as the strengths of the 2020 Falcons.
“This year we have a lot of people who are willing to do what it takes for the team to win,” Vogelsong-Lewis said. “We work well as a team and we all work really hard.”
“We have a lot of skill players coming back,” Risner said. “Our line is pretty new, but everybody else should be pretty experienced in some varsity football.”
It may not be the ideal senior season for Minford or its opponents, but the Falcon senior captains’ focus is on to taking the season in stride and enjoying the ride while it lasts.
“From a senior point-of-view and for the nine seniors we have, it’s the last season we have,” Vogelsong-Lewis said. “We’re trying to take advantage of it and make something out of it. Not as much practice time, but we still have to play like everybody else.”
“I’m excited we’re at least going to get to play seven games,” Risner said. “I think that’s a lot better than cancelling the whole season.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved