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At this time last year, the area’s high school football teams had no idea when their season might start. That much-hyped and time-honored tradition of the opening week game instead gave way to a sense of dread and worry about the unknown as the coronavirus pandemic pushed back the season from late August to early October.

Now, coaches and players from the area’s seven local high schools know firsthand what can be taken from them in a moment’s notice, and are thankful for a return to some sense of normal – a full season slate after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Per UIL guidelines, the area’s public school teams – Heights, Scarborough, Booker T. Washington and Waltrip – were able to begin practice on Aug. 2 and full-contact workouts on Aug. 7.  Interschool scrimmages have begun, and the regular season begins on Aug. 26-27.

“We’re all having a sense of getting back to normalcy, even though there’s still some things that are going on with COVID,” said Heights head coach Stephen Dixon, whose Bulldogs fought through the obstacles last season for the program’s first district championship since 2013.

TAPPS schools, which include St. Thomas, St. Pius X and Lutheran High North, were allowed to begin practice on Aug. 2.

“They’re eager to come to work every day knowing how important it is. We’ve talked about it every day, and I’ve been doing it for 23 years – we’ve talked about how things can be taken away from you in one snap,” St. Pius X head coach Greg Cranfill said. “Normally we’re talking about injuries, but last year taught us that nothing is guaranteed, and I think that’s how we’re coming to work each day. At any moment, things could be taken away from us.”

Most teams will play 10 regular season games in a normal season, but many of the area’s schools played fewer than that last season due to the pandemic. In particular, Booker T. Washington was limited to just five games on the field last season while Scarborough was only able to play four games.

“One thing that I’m looking forward to this season is just being able to get out there and have some fun and get the kids together,” said first-year Booker T. Washington head coach Kelvin Chatham. “Just being able to get out there and get back to normal, kids being able to be back around each other and be in the same room together and having fun together.”

Heights had multiple non-district games cancelled and only played seven regular season games, as did St. Pius X and Lutheran High North.

“At any moment, things could be taken away from us, so we don’t want to take anything for granted,” Cranfill said. “They’re just focused in on the fact that we’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity that we’ve been given.”

Waltrip and St. Thomas were among the most fortunate in playing nine regular-season contests – but behind the scenes, several coaches said it was tough on everyone.

“The good news is that we’re about as normal football-wise as you can be – we’re practicing at the normal times, and school is going on and in person. It’s nice to have that routine that we didn’t really get last year as much,” St. Thomas head coach Rich McGuire said.

For some coaches, the biggest thing they are looking forward to is being able to have a full year or season where they can simply be around all their kids to help them stay eligible and healthy for a full season.

“If there’s any kind of issues in the classroom and they’re here on campus, we can address it right away and have study hall to prevent any kind of stumbles in the classroom. That was one thing we weren’t able to do last year, and it really kind of hurt us and everybody,” Scarborough’s Larkay James said.

And though things may be starting to resemble normalcy with practice and game start times, the area’s coaches know all too well how things can change on a dime. So some, like Christopher Speed at Lutheran High North, encourage their players to wear masks and conduct themselves responsibly off the field.

"I tell the kids that it’s important that we be responsible outside our practice with the decisions we make when we go to certain events or locations. We can’t force them to do it when they’re not on campus, but we can try to plant a seed to make them understand,” he said. “…. I always reiterate that to the players and staff – we’ve got to watch what we’re doing so we can complete our season.”

One thing is for certain – area teams are raring to go.

“It’s a great thing for us,” Dixon said. “And the kids are definitely happy about all of that.”

2021 football season schedule

St. Thomas

Date      Opponent           Time      Site

8/28       vs. Needville      7 p.m.   St. Thomas

9/4         @ Plano John Paul 2 p.m.             Ford Center

9/10       @ Kinkaid            7 p.m.   Kinkaid

9/17       vs. Houston Christian      7 p.m.   St. Thomas

9/24       vs. SJ XXIII           7 p.m.   St. Thomas

10/1       @ Central Cath. 7 p.m.   Central Catholic

10/8       vs. SA Christian  7 p.m.   St. Thomas

10/15     @ Antonian        7 p.m.   Antonian Prep

10/22     @ St. Pius X        7 p.m.   St. Pius X

10/29     BYE

11/5       vs. Conc. Lutheran 7 p.m. St. Thomas

St. Pius X

8/27       @ Lutheran North 7 p.m. Lutheran High North

9/3         @ Dallas Christian 7 p.m. Dallas Christian

9/10       vs. Bishop Lynch 7:30 p.m. St. Pius X

9/17       BYE

9/24       @ Conc. Lutheran 7 p.m. Concordia Lutheran

10/1       vs. SJ XXIII           7 p.m.   St. Pius X

10/8       @ Ant. Prep       7 p.m.   Antonian Prep

10/15     vs. Central Cath. 7 p.m.  St. Pius X

10/22     vs. St. Thomas   7 p.m.   St. Pius X

10/29     @ SA Christian   7 p.m.   San Antonio Christian

11/5       @ Kelly Catholic 7 p.m.  Beaumont Kelly Catholic

Lutheran High North

8/27       vs. St. Pius X       7 p.m.   Lutheran High North

9/3         @ Village School 7 p.m. The Village School

9/10       vs. Rosehill Christian 7 p.m. Lutheran High North

9/17       @ Northland Christian 7 p.m. Northland Christian

9/24       @ Brazos Christian 7 p.m.             Brazos Christian

10/1       vs. St. Paul Shiner 7:30 p.m. Richter Stadium

10/8       vs. KIPP NE          7 p.m.   Richter Stadium

10/15    @ Bay Area Christian 7 p.m. Bay Area Christian

10/22     vs. Alpha Omega              7 p.m.   Lutheran High North

10/29     @ Kelly Catholic                7 p.m.   Beaumont Kelly Catholic

Scarborough

8/26       vs. KIPP Sunnyside 7 p.m. Dyer Stadium

9/4         vs. KIPP Generations 6 p.m. Dyer Stadium

9/11       vs. KIPP NE          6 p.m.   Dyer Stadium

9/18       BYE

9/23       vs. Washington 7 p.m.   Dyer Stadium

10/1       vs. Worthing       7 p.m.   Dyer Stadium

10/7       vs. Yates               7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

10/15    @ North Forest 7 p.m.   Cowart Stadium

10/21     vs. Wheatley      7 p.m.   Dyer Stadium

10/28     vs. Kashmere     7 p.m.   Dyer Stadium

11/5       @ Furr                  7 p.m.   Cowart Stadium

Washington

8/27       vs. KIPP NE          7 p.m.   Dyer Stadium

9/2         @ North Brook  6:30 p.m. Tully Stadium

9/9         @ Baytown Sterling 7 p.m. Stallworth Stadium

9/16       BYE

9/23       @ Scarborough 7 p.m.   Dyer Stadium

9/30       vs. Furr                 7 p.m.   Dyer Stadium

10/8       @ Kashmere      7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

10/16     @ Worthing        6 p.m.   Cowart Stadium

10/22     vs. Yates               7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

10/29     @ North Forest 7 p.m.  Cowart Stadium

11/5       vs. Wheatley      7 p.m.   Dyer Stadium

Heights

8/28       @ Cleburne        5 p.m.   Waco Stadium

9/3         @ Pearland Dawson 7 p.m. Pearland ISD Stadium

9/10       vs. Barbers Hill   7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

9/16       vs. Seven Lakes 7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

9/23       @ Westbury       7 p.m.   Butler Stadium

10/1       vs. Bellaire           7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

10/9       @ Chavez            6 p.m.   Barnett Stadium

10/15     vs. Westside       7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

10/22     BYE

10/29     vs. Lamar             7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

11/4       vs. Houston        7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

Waltrip

8/27       vs. Lumberton   7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

9/2         vs. Klein Forest  7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

9/10       @ Austin              7 p.m.   Barnett Stadium

9/16       @ FB Willowridge 6 p.m. Hall Stadium

9/24       vs. Marshall        7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

9/30       @ Sterling           7 p.m.   Barnett Stadium

10/7       vs. Madison        7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

10/15     @ Galena Park  7 p.m.   GPISD Stadium

10/21     vs. Northside     7 p.m.   Delmar Stadium

10/28     BYE

11/4       @ Sharpstown  7 p.m.   Butler Stadium

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