Story by Heather Foster – Photo by Heather Foster
With concerns over rising active numbers of COVID-19 here in Newton County, the only game Deweyville, Burkeville, and Newton athletic programs seem to be playing right now is the old-fashioned game of Red Light, Green Light. With summer conditioning workouts starting and stopping, resuming, and then being delayed again, athletic directors Brandon Prouse, Eric Williams and Drew Johnston have all tried to weigh the big picture of sports during a pandemic, without even knowing what the big picture actually looks like; It’s much like putting a jigsaw puzzle together without having an image to go by.
After a strong start for all of Newton County school districts, Prouse, Williams, and Johnston have had to find a balance of measuring public safety with the need to press forward to find a new normal during Covid. Deweyville’s Athletic Director says that as of starting back last Monday (July 13), his Pirates are going strong with good participation in his summer conditioning program. He attributes this to being a small town and being “pretty much Covid-free,” and Coach Prouse emphasized that they are trying to keep it that way.
While Deweyville is going strong, Burkeville ISD has taken a bit longer to conduct workouts again. The Mustangs Athletic Director, Eric Williams, says that if UIL does not make any more announcements, he plans to resume workouts on July 21. Williams said that although managing numbers has not been a problem for Burkeville, he desires to stay in compliance with the CDC and Texas UIL guidelines. Williams credits the custodial staff at BISD for maintaining compliance. “Our district custodians do an excellent job at assisting the coaching staff with disinfecting the appropriate areas daily.”
Eagles Athletic Director, Drew Johnston, has been forced to watch the constant rise of active cases in Newton and had to make the difficult decision to cancel all summer conditioning workouts. This announcement sent a small shockwave throughout the Texas high school football community. “The safety of our players and families far outweigh anything else,” Johnston said. “I want the community to know that what’s special about us is our community and not just our football program.”
With so many unknowns, the only thing certain is the need to take a very flexible approach when it comes to high school athletics. Flexibility in 2020 could surpass the significance of having strength, speed, and agility that we have valued so much in players in previous years. Williams, Prouse, and Johnston will do their absolute best to lead their coaches and their programs into uncharted territory: sports during a pandemic. Prouse expressed his gratitude towards the Deweyville community. “We thank them for their support and trusting in us to keep their kids safe. Hopefully, we can get back to some kind of normalcy and get school started on time.” Williams shared in that sentiment, “As a staff, we are so grateful for the Mustang community for trusting our guidance as we assist them in shaping these young men during such challenging times.” Williams went on to say that the boys are excited, working hard and are in high hopes to be able to represent Burkeville under their brand-new stadium lights this season. For Johnston, he still plans to move forward. There is certainly hope for a 2020 season, and he and his coaching staff are up for the challenge of continuing to play Red Light, Green Light if necessary. Johnston said, “We will take advantage of every time we’re able to meet and put in work. Football has always made us better. Putting each other first will make us greater.” Go, Pirates. Go, Mustangs. Go, Eagles.