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Water Valley set to begin “unique” 2020 season

Most teams across Mississippi will be playing either their fourth or second game of the 2020 football season on Friday night, except Water Valley.

The Blue Devils travel to Bruce this week in what is serving as their season opener. The season was supposed to begin on Aug. 21, but the Mississippi High School Activities Association delayed the start of the football season by two weeks to Sept. 4 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With last week already scheduled to be a bye week in a normal season, Water Valley head coach Brad Embry scrambled to find a team to play. That team was Baldwyn, but then three positive cases of COVID-19 among the players along with contact tracing caused the entire Blue Devil roster to be quarantined.

The quarantine ran until Aug. 26, but then the team had to start an acclimation period all over which caused the Blue Devils’ Sept. 4 game to be canceled, making their 2020 season opener this week.

“I guess it was new for us,” Embry said of the start to their season. “Somewhat like your normal camp, but the fact that you went all summer to get ready, to get in shape. Then you had to sit at home for two weeks. No matter what you do, those kids are going to lose a little bit those two weeks. So when you come back the kids aren’t in top shape.”

After having to halt practices for two weeks, the team returned to the field on Aug. 26. Last week, Embry and his staff began ramping up practice with padded practices beginning last Friday. All this week they have begun installing their game plan for Bruce, finally able to experience a game week.

With the loss of spring practices due to COVID-19 and having scaled down summer workouts, the questions Embry had heading into the season with a lot of young players are now compounded after having lost the end of fall camp and their first game.

“It was unique,” Embry said. “It’s an uncertain time and that adds to it. I think the closer we get to the game the kids actually see that, ‘Hey, we really are going to get to play a football game.’ Spring training was canceled and we bumped (the season) back and all the talk you hear on TV, it wears on everyone. Obviously, kids are no different.”

Now, the Blue Devils turn their attention to Bruce. The Trojans played North Pontotoc last Friday in both teams’ season opener, falling to the Vikings 30-13.

Without a game last week, Embry traveled to Ecru to scout the Trojans. Getting to see Bruce in person as well as watching the game film provides unique perspective that coaches are not normally provided, given they are usually playing a game every Friday night and unable to attend an upcoming opponent’s game.

“I think it gives you an idea,” Embry said. “I think it’s good to go when you can. Obviously, that’s not something we get to do a lot. Also now, film’s so good. It’s so clear. Everybody’s got a good camera and good film just about. You can really pick up what you need without going. You pick up a few things being there in person, but we didn’t get to get real close.”

Water Valley and Bruce will kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday.