Area football teams seeing resurgence in participation post-COVID

Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 6:06 PM CDT
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(Heart of Illinois ABC) - There are just five weeks left until the 2022 high school football season kicks off and some area teams are already experiencing wins. How? There are lots of kids showing up play football this year.

“Our numbers are up here big time and it’s a great thing,” Pekin head coach Doug Nutter said. “It’s great to see all these kids being active and wanting to participate in athletics here.”

Numbers are up at large schools like Pekin but also at small schools. Farmington in particular has seen a big rise in the number of players out for football this summer.

″Talking to people, I think everybody’s numbers are up a little bit but our numbers are definitely way up,” Farmers head coach Toby Vallas said. “I think today we have 88 here today so quite a few and that’s a good thing for us. Especially with our enrollment dropping, still get those kind of numbers, I’m pretty happy with that.”

Just two falls after COVID canceled the football season altogether, football programs are seeing a big resurgence in participation and coaches and players alike think that growth stems from the fact that there was no football or many group activities during the early days of the pandemic. Kids were itching to get back in action after COVID.

″Yeah, I got bored sitting inside too and this is four hours every morning that it’s outside doing something,” said Farmington junior Braden Morse who is playing football for the first time. “A lot of people are really tired of sitting inside and want to get outside and enjoy what we can.”

Morse is one of many first-time football players around the area, picking up the game just to get outside and have something to do.

“I think that’s the biggest thing is we have a ton of freshmen out and even a ton of juniors out that haven’t played before but just want to try, just want to do something and that’s a great thing,” Vallas said. “I was worried last year that COVID really took us in the wrong direction but it looks like now maybe it’s starting to come back around.”

The up-tick in participation has coaches excited for the future and they’re thrilled that kids are back on the gridiron and eager to participate.

“I just think its the post-COVID stuff,” Nutter said. “Not being able to do a lot of things so now they’re itching to be back outside and be a part of sports and athletics.”

Numbers are back up and the football season is quickly approaching. Friday nights are going to very full, very fun and very busy this fall.

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