Saluda football addresses concerns with unknowns heading into football season

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 7:39 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - This past season, Saluda won their first state championship since 1963. After being down for so long, the Tigers are finally the alpha cats and thought they would have the chance to defend their state title. But with each passing day, the thought of not having a South Carolina high school football season comes ever closer.

The Tigers got off to a late start with summer workouts: beginning on June 22nd. They weren’t conditioning for long after the Saluda School District made the decision to suspend workouts out of an abundance of caution about a week and a half later. Now, it’s a waiting game as the Tigers hope they’ll get back to preparing to hunt their prey.

"What I'm really worried about is we tell our kids we're going to go, and then a week or 2 into the season, they stop us. We kind of already had that happen with out summer workouts. We went for a week and a half and then boom, our district said we can't do it anymore," said head coach Stewart Young.

Saluda relished in the underdog role for much of the post season all the way to their state title victory over Barnwell. Should there be a season, Young isn’t worried about his team having enough motivation to get back to a title game. He’s already expecting enough billboard material after the departures of quarterback Noah Bell and wide receiver Dallan Wright. The bigger concern is the long-term effect of not being able to workout with his team and continue building the Tiger football culture.

"I don't want to stop here. I want to continue to build the program every year in and out. That's what sucks about this whole -- this virus. It just kind of stalled the momentum. But I guess everybody's in the same boat. There's no excuses, it just is what it is."

Concerns over the virus and over the season were present during Saluda's brief workout period. Young said that the energy and excitement that's present at practices wasn't what it normally was in previous summers. For Young and the rest of the Tigers coaching staff, the top priority is the safety of the kids and still being a role model figure for their athletes. Even that role can lead to more frustration.

“They’ve got questions and I don’t know how to answer them. It’s a weird situation. It’s really, really unprecedented,” said Young. “It’s frustrating that we can’t be with them. At times I have to tell myself there’s more to life than just coaching ball, but at the same time my passion is like, ‘Man I’m ready to go.‘”

The most recent update from the South Carolina High School League made their original recommendations for returning to sports requirements. A second phase or phase 1.5 was not something the SCHSL was ready to move towards due to growing COVID-19 cases around the state.

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