MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)– It seems there will be nothing normal about the upcoming school year or the IHSA football season for local high school players if there is one.
Harlem returning quarterback James Cooper Jr. has been looking forward to a big senior year, one that could see him become the NIC-10’s all-time passing leader, and one that could end in another playoff birth. He’s trying to grasp the idea of playing a football season in March and April with practices beginning in mid-February. That’s the plan the IHSA announced on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s going to be different. It kind of hurts,” said Cooper of not starting up in August and playing in the fall. “I hope we can play in February, but I mean our team, yes we’ll be ready. We’re going to stay ready this whole time. Stay together, stay focused.”
But how hard will it be to focus in the fall in keeping up with conditioning and the mental preparation for football knowing nothing’s going to happen until mid-February at the earliest?
“I know it’s going to be tough for a couple of guys out there, but I think with our team we’ve got a lot of leaders on this year’s team, so I think we’ll be able to keep our guys in check.”
This will be far from the senior year Cooper Jr. had anticipated, not only from a football standpoint, but in all aspects. He and his fellow Harlem students might be limited to going to classes on campus only a couple days a week and doing the rest of their schoolwork from home.
“If I’m being honest I can’t really process what’s going on right now. It’s going to be difficult, I mean, I’ve been waiting from when I can remember, waiting for this last year of school. Waiting to walk into those halls for the last time. All that stuff is all messed up now, but I’ll figure it out. Go on with life.”