Lincoln County student athletes take to fields

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | August 18, 2020 8:55 AM

After spending the summer unsure if their fall seasons would materialize, local high school athletes took to fields and courts last week with high hopes.

“You guys can be every bit as good as we were last year, maybe even a little more athletic,” Neil Fuller, Libby football head coach, told his team on Aug. 14.

The Loggers met for their first practice of the year on the field in front of Libby Middle High School. From the first whistle blow, the coaches threw their players back into the thick of the game.

Fuller tested his offense with passing and running plays. Jeremiah Chumley, assistant coach, and Kyle Hannah, defensive coordinator, sharpened players’ tackling skills and explosive power. To get the Loggers back into fighting shape, the coaches put them through a series of grueling shuttle runs.

“Your body is a machine, use your mind to control it,” Hannah bellowed like a drill sergeant as the Loggers trundled down the field. “Finish strong, no coasting.”

While the team lost several good offensive linemen last year and may not be as big across the board, Fuller said a few of the younger players are showing their potential.

Fuller finds the possibility of officials calling the season off due to COVID-19 stressful. With a sport as physical as football, it’s impossible to limit contact between players. Still, Fuller said he intends to do all he can to ensure the Loggers will get to keep playing.

During an Aug. 10 school board meeting, Jim Germany, athletic director at Libby High School, told administrators via conference call that the school district hoped to keep athletes on the field even if it meant limiting the number of spectators. Germany, who was quarantined along with nearly 10 other district employees after one member tested positive for the coronavirus, understood how quickly a single infection could cripple the school’s athletic plans.

“We’re here for the kids. Our goal is not to put people in the stands,” he said. “Our goal is to give these kids some sort of extracurricular activity.”

After practice, many of the players expressed their gratitude for getting a shot at the season.

“We’re looking forward to every chance we even get to play with all that’s going on,” Senior Dawson Young, 18, said.

While Troy Football faces the same uncertainty as the Loggers when it comes to the continuation of their season, Luke Haggerty, Trojan head coach, said COVID-19 had already dealt a blow to his team. Many potential players lost their eligibility after failing classes last spring when schools switched to remote schedules. While he expected at least 25 players to come out for the team, Haggerty had only 13 show up for the first day of practice on Aug. 14.

Despite having a smaller team this year, Haggerty remains confident that his Trojans could finish the season with a few wins.

Haggerty put his players through a similar routine as the Loggers, starting with offensive plays and switching to defensive drills. The Trojans focused on their tackling, which Haggerty described as a weak point in years past. Instead of shuttle runs for conditioning, Haggerty had his players sprint between the end zones until they were ready to collapse.

Between drills, quarterback and running back Dylan Peterson, 18, said that while the Trojans are going to be relying on some freshman who had never played before, the team was shaping up well. Teaching the new players how to tackle properly — to avoid injury — will be of greater importance than ever, according to Peterson.

“Anybody gets hurt, it’s kind of over,” he said.

Left tackle Jace Fisher, 17, said that while the team was small, the players have heart, which is what matters. Fisher, who has committed to Montana State, said being mentally tough is a priority for the Trojans this year.

Libby golfers teed off their season on Aug. 13 at the Cabinet View Golf Club driving range.

“This is going to be a weird year,” coach Dann Rohrer told his players before practice. Rohrer explained that to minimize contact, teams would play separate holes this year and compare scores afterward on an honor system.

While the rules are different this year, senior Kayley Svendsbye, 17, said she was excited to spend more time with her team. Freshman Cy Williams, 14, however, said he would have liked to watch other teams golf to gain experience.