ERIE — In addition to shuttering the 2020 spring sports season, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the summer workout schedules for area prep football teams.
For the Erie-Prophetstown gridiron co-op, the virus came close to hitting home directly when it was feared that one of the Panthers' assistant coaches had contracted it after feeling ill last week.
However, a test ended up negative. The assistant — whom E-P head coach Jesse Abbott declined to name for privacy reasons — appeared to have battled a bout of strep throat.
"It was more strep symptoms," said Abbott. "He contacted us the middle of last week, I believe on Wednesday, and said he didn't feel well and wanted to take the test. We found out the results around lunchtime (this past) Sunday, and the test was negative. Our first thought was with him, to keep checking on him and make sure he was okay.
"Our next thought was with our other coaches, who all have kids, and our own players. We did all we needed to, asked the questions and took the tests; it's been at least two days since we did any football stuff."
When he found out about the negative COVID test results, Abbott could not help but feel like a load had been lifted from his mind.
"It's odd to say it's a relief because he's still sick, but at least it's not COVID," said the 2000 Fulton graduate, who served 13 season as a Steamer football assistant before taking the E-P reins in '18. Last fall, the Panthers went 2-7 after recording one win in Abbott's debut season.
The Panthers were able to get back to work with the resumption of summer workouts Monday evening after consulting with Erie athletic director Brian Howell and his Prophetstown counterpart, Derrick Cox, and they have a couple more practices scheduled for this week.
But, future workouts appear to be contingent on whether or not there will be a football season this fall. The IHSA board of directors is scheduled to meet Wednesday to determine if there will be a fall sports season, and if not, when all autumn activities — including football — are to take place.
"We're waiting to see what the IHSA says," Abbott said. "I haven't talked to anybody with any concrete news. We've just got to go along and plan like we're going to start on time, and if not, adjust from there. Our guys have been great about being there for practices, and we've talked a lot this summer about how we can only control our actions.
"I get questions from the guys, and I always tell them when I know, you'll know."
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