ROTTERDAM — John Gallo wants to put Mohonasen football back on the Section II map, like it was so many years ago in his first stint coaching at the high school.
Getting Mohonasen’s grid kids back on the field is a start.
“This is all optional,” Gallo said Thursday evening as he watched a group of youngsters, all wearing facial covering, go through a series of drills on the Mighty Warriors’ turf. “No one is telling them they have to do it, but you can see the interest level.”
Gallo and his staff put the players through their paces Monday and again Thursday as part of their initial preparation for the Fall II season that is scheduled to begin March 1.
“Monday was a great night for a lot of reasons,” Gallo said.
On Sept. 9 the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced that “high” risk sports, including football, would not be sanctioned to play this fall out of COVID-19 concerns, but that those teams could begin no to low-contact practices Sept. 21 with an eye toward playing games next year.
“I feel it’s better to move to March. Anything could have happened [this fall],” Mohonasen senior running back and linebacker Jake Deguire said. “There could have been a case and we’d be done.”
The football focus at Mohonasen now is on what lies ahead, and building towards it.
“This feels amazing,” Mohonasen junior lineman Justin Park said just before Thursday’s workout began, and just after getting his temperature checked like the dozens of other players did. “We’re getting our chemistry together, learning plays again and helping the younger kids. Hopefully we’ll all be prepared by March.”
Last March was when schools first closed down and scholastic athletic participation came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My first OTA [organized team activity] was January 6 and we had 10 or 11 of those,” said Gallo, who was hired for the Mohonasen football post in December after previously guiding the team to a 20-14-2 record from 1988-91. “We were able to implement a third of our offense and installed a little bit of defense, and we had the weight room going. We were building, and that all stopped.”
Gallo got the OK to restart football activities at the school from Mohonasen superintendent Shannon Shine and received the backing of new athletic director Dave Bertram.
“We worked together to figure out the right steps to do it safely, and he [Gallo] tackled it,” Bertram said. “We are following all of the DOH guidelines.”
“I was pretty excited when I heard we’d be doing this,” Park said. “I’m happy to see everyone back together.”
Mohonasen practiced social distancing during Thursday’s on-field session and before that while weight training in three separate groups.
“The weight training never ends,” Gallo said. “We’ll continue to be outside until snow tells us we can’t, and then we’ll move indoors.”
The Mighty Warriors intend to take full advantage of their time together.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Deguire said. “This is about getting better, building chemistry and learning our plays. The offense we’ll run is quite a bit different than what we had last year.”
Gallo liked a lot of things he saw Thursday from both the veterans who won three games last season and the lower level guys.
“As a coaching staff, we couldn’t ask for a group more willing,” he said. “They realize to try to turn this thing around they’ve got to put in as much effort as possible.”
Thursday’s session attracted more players than Monday’s did.
“It keeps growing,” Gallo said. “There are 20 more new kids. I don’t even know who some of them are yet, but it’s a great thing to see.”
Mohonasen’s soccer teams, which are also slated to play in the Fall II season, will begin structured workouts next week.
“Two days a week. Skills and drills for modified up to high school,” Bertram said. “I know the kids are pretty excited. The kids are chomping to get out there.”
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.