While some may have their doubts about seeing high school sports start preseason practices because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is little doubt that the student-athletes are raring to go.
The University Interscholastic League’s guidelines for preseason workouts allow Class 4A schools (like Stephenville) and smaller to start their seasons on time. Monday will be the first day of sports-specific workouts for head football coach Sterling Doty’s Stephenville High School’s Yellow Jackets, as well as the first day for cross country and team tennis. But the SHS Honeybee volleyball squad of head coach Shay Douglas will get the jump on them, staging Midnight Madness starting at the earliest possible time — 12 a.m. Monday to 2:30 a.m.
Doty said the football players are eager to get started preparing to have a great season.
"We’re all really hungry to get back out there, with the break we had," Doty said. "They are motivated to get back out there and play the game they all love. We’ve been getting our boys in shape, and getting them acclimated.
"They got bigger and stronger and faster. They had a really good summer, and the kids have been working hard and having fun."
SHS football will have one varsity practice session per day, starting with Aug. 3 and 4 from 7-10 a.m. on the high school practice fields. Wednesday through Friday, football practice will be 4-7 p.m. On Saturday, practice will be 7-10 a.m.
For the second week, Aug. 10-14, varsity football practice will be 4-7 p.m.
The annual SHS Blue/Gold Scrimmage, also on the SHS practice field, is set to start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15. Earlier that same morning, photos of individual players and teams will be taken in the Green Room.
The only varsity football scrimmage will be Aug. 20 against Glen Rose, at Tarleton State University’s Memorial Stadium, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 20. The first varsity football game for the Yellow Jackets is set for Aug. 28, at Sweetwater (7:30 p.m. kickoff).
A recent schedule change added Dumas to the non-district football schedule as a replacement for Waco Connally, which also has had the start of its season delayed. The Yellow Jackets will take on Dumas, which is in the Panhandle — more than a six-hour drive from Stephenville — at Lubbock Cooper High School, on Thursday, Sept. 24 (kickoff at 7 p.m.).
SHS also had to replace Class 5A Everman (vs. Lampasas, Sept. 4 in Stephenville) and Abilene Wylie (at Melissa, Sept. 18) because of UIL season delays for the larger schools.
The newest SHS football slate lists the Homecoming game for Oct. 23, against Waxahachie Life School.
The other fall sports for SHS, cross country and team tennis, also will be starting soon. The first varsity team tennis match is set for Aug. 18, at Brock. The first meet for the SHS varsity girls and boys cross country teams is scheduled for Sept. 2 in Brownwood.
Last year was the first time Douglas had Midnight Madness to kick off the volleyball season. She asked her players if they would be interested in doing that again this year, and they say yes without giving it a second thought, Douglas said.
"Face it, nobody really sleeps the night before the first practice anyway," Douglas said. "They’re ready to go — so ready to go. They haven’t seen each other in a team setting (in months). They are on a mission."
The Honeybees are expecting to have nine returning volleyball lettermen after losing four seniors to graduation. This year there are five seniors.
Douglas noted that because of COVID-19 precautions, the UIL ruled that there will be no regional volleyball tournament this season, having two individual playoff rounds separately instead.
The non-district volleyball schedule that had previously been crafted had to be completely revamped when the UIL banned early-season tournaments. Douglas had planned on the Honeybees playing in tournaments in Wimberly, Granbury and Decatur.
"I had to reschedule every game but two. It was a lot — rough. It was a stressful moment," Douglas said of when she first learned that she somehow had to find multiple replacement games as soon as possible.
SHS lost 10 games that had been scheduled against Class 5A and 6A foes, because the UIL had alo previously delayed the season start for those larger schools because of COVID-19.
"We’re just grateful we’re getting to play," she said. "It was a little sketchy for a while. We knew the UIL announcement was coming."
The SHS football team had to add a distant opponent, Dumas, and the Honeybees were unable to avoid a similar situation. One of the non-district replacement games for SHS will be against another Panhandle-area school, Hereford, but that game will be played in Vernon.
The volleyball two-a-day schedule for SHS has the second practice Monday set for 1-4 p.m. Tuesday’s slate will have practices at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practices are set for 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., followed by scrimmages Friday and Saturday.
The first regular-season volleyball match is scheduled for Aug. 11, at home against Bridgeport.