Young football team finds its footing again

The team has acquired promising new underclassmen, who they have big hopes for. (Maggie Dickman)

The Messwood football team’s season, typically in the fall, was delayed until this spring due to COVID. This delay has been beneficial as players have had a much longer off-season.

“Surprisingly, the team has adjusted seamlessly to the date changes,” said Antione Davis, head varsity coach. “Our boys had the chance to take advantage of a longer offseason which … benefited everyone, especially our freshman.”

The break, nearly a year and a half long, helped the team’s recruiting process. Younger players have had opportunities to take leadership roles on the team.

“It’s allowed more guys to come out and play, as well as allowing them to prepare even more for the season right now,” said Max Curro, junior and offensive line starter.

For Jeremiah Thompson, Messmer senior and captain, the performance and growth of the younger players has been a pivotal part of the season so far. 

“The highlight [of the season] would be a lot of the young players stepping up, playing hard, playing like they’re upperclassmen, filling in the spots that upperclassmen should have filled.” Thompson said. “They’re catching on pretty fast and improving day by day.”

[Younger players] are catching on pretty fast and improving day by day.

— Jeremiah Thompson, Messmer senior and captain

Not only was the time frame of the season disrupted by the pandemic, but the team is also putting new COVID protocols in place for both practice and games.

“There have been times where we’ve cancelled practice for one of our players to get tested when they mentioned having any COVID symptoms,” Davis said. “Balls are sanitized between quarterback rotations in practice; we don’t use the inside locker rooms any more; we have our athletes bring their full uniforms home after every practice and game, pads included, to separate the wash loads.”

These protocols have made team bonding opportunities sparse outside of practices and games. The lack of leadership opportunities off the field means that teammates have to make up the difference on the field. 

Messwood football players practice at night under the glow of the John F. Nickoll stadium lights. (Maggie Dickman)

“It changed a lot, not being able to actually get the guys together as I should have,” Thompson said. “[I’m] mainly playing the captain role on the field, not off the field because a lot of the COVID protocols. I’m just trying to pick up my role on the field more and more.” 

For Curro, the largest adjustment has been the temperature change associated with starting the season in the spring as opposed to in the fall. 

“The only big adjustment has been going from cold to hot, rather than starting in August when it goes the other direction,” Curro said.

Another adjustment for the team has been the lack of field space. Like football, the boy’s soccer season was moved from the fall season to spring. Both track and field and girls soccer normally take place in the spring season. All sports teams must share the limited field space.

“Having to share fields with track and soccer, we don’t get a lot of the field time so that’s very different this year,” Thompson said.

So far, the team has managed one win against West Allis Central. The team scored a touchdown in the last two minutes of the game, ending with a score of 32-28. The team lost against Milwaukee Lutheran and Pius XI.

Davis is confident in the ability of his young team and their collective power. As the team continues to grow, Davis looks forward to continuing the development of young players.

“We have a younger team which is why I feel like this season is an important step rolling into this off season,” Davis said. “I feel as though we will shock a lot of people in these next few years with how many players go on to play ball at the next level. A few are showing the potential to play post college but, one day at a time.” 

Curro hopes that the confidence of the team will lead to wins later in the season.

“The level of confidence for this group is really high: we have a lot of confidence in ourselves,” Curro said. “But when it comes down to it, it’s just about execution.”