Imagine being Oregon powerhouse Central Catholic head coach Steve Pyne right now.
The Central Catholic high school football program, which was ranked by MaxPreps as the most dominant Oregon high school program of the last decade, always carries lofty expectations. But heading into the 2020 season, the Rams are tasked with replacing 33 seniors from last year’s 12-2 squad which claimed the 6A Oregon state title, including stand-out wide receivers Silas Starr (Stanford) and Kalvin Souders (UNLV).
Instead, one of the state’s most popular programs, is working through uncharted territory.
Navigating an off-season that could be described as anything but normal by most standards, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has essentially brought high school sports in Oregon (and throughout the country) to a halt. It cost thousands of spring-sport athletes their 2020 seasons and almost completely obliterated the crucial off-season periods for upcoming fall sports.
The summer months, which are usually an invaluable period for potential college-bound players to work on their individual abilities and attend exposure camps has been somewhat destroyed for the time being. As states, counties and cities work their way to re-open via a “new normal”, the idea of summer evaluation camps that feature players and coaches from a long-list of different areas, still sits a far signpost in the distance.
“It has certainly impacted those individuals who may not be seen as ‘no-brainer’ recruits. They have had to be more diligent in their approach, not having evaluation camps available will certainly impact the recruiting process.” Pyne told BTD.
Football is also a sport reliant strongly on off-season development for players and teams.
Players rarely lift weights during the season, as the wear-and-tear of the sport, near-daily practices and physical recovery from weekly games becomes the focal point of each week. I coached high school football for four seasons. My dad has coached it for almost thirty years. I saw it all first-hand, time after time after time. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. That adage can never be applied more accurately than to high school football.
Usually, the summer months spent in the weight room are key not only for on-field growth, but for team camaraderie off-the-field as well. New leaders emerge. New friendships form. A bond is made between the players who worked their tails off in the blazing summer heat, as their classmates sit in the sun at beaches or inside air-conditioned houses, relaxing in their time off from school. This is where the actual “team” forms for the first time.
But now, that “team” is being forged virtually, via modern technology, as Pyne and his staff have been “conducting Zoom meetings...(as well as) communicating through email and social media.” to keep in touch with their players. They’ve also had to create “workouts for those who have access to weight equipment and workouts for those who may not”, another challenge of the socially-distanced separation.
However, regardless of the current landscape, the Central Catholic program’s annual success comes with that grand set of expectations and despite their ample roster-turnover, Pyne believes his 2020 team is capable of great things.
“We feel that we will be very competitive and should be in the conversation at the end of the season and hopefully have a chance to defend our state title.”
That optimism doesn’t come free though. With a starting date for fall high school sports still in limbo, the student-athletes will obviously be the ones most affected by the return.
“The biggest concern about starting on time is allowing for teams to have adequate time to help players get into shape, Pyne said. “If we are told, official practice starts on August 17th, but you cannot have kids together until August 1st, we are setting kids up for injury. Some will be in decent shape, but the majority will not be in as good of condition as they should be.”
Central Catholic High School Rams Football Profile
- Head Coach: Steve Pyne (2020 - 18th Season)
- State Championships: 1952, 1953, 2013, 2014, 2019
- Notable Alumni: Joey Harrington (NFL), Brennan Scarlett (NFL), Fred Quillan (NFL)
Class of 2020 Commits: Silas Starr (Stanford), Kalvin Souders (UNLV), Elijah Elliott (Montana State), Miles Jackson (Montana State), Jordan Reen (Brown), Izaya Shabazz (Simon Fraser), Kimo Hiu (Simon Fraser), Ethan Flynn (Simon Fraser), Cade Knighton (Occidental), Andrew Gross (George Fox), Jackson Dennis (Puget Sound), Daniel Pham, (Lewis and Clark), Clyde Bell (Southern Oregon).
Class of 2021 Players To Watch: Ryan Dirksen, Jalen Ridgeway, Jack Brown, Jack Bennison, Myles Broadous, Jacob Smith.