Pam Pack football team ready to get started

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, February 3, 2021

It might be hard for some to believe, but there hasn’t been public high school football in Beaufort County since late November of 2019.

A whole calendar year has passed without the almost scared Southern tradition of high school football under the Friday night lights, thanks to safety issues stemming from COVID-19.

It’s strange to think of high school football, or any other kind of football in late February, but practice officially begins next week for North Carolina public school teams, just about 15 months to the day since Washington High School’s season ended with a home loss to Salisbury in the second round of the 2A playoffs.

“It has been a really long time and it’s felt like forever, but I think we’ve put the extra time to good use,” first-year head coach Perry Owens said. “We’ve come to expect the unexpected and will hopefully react well to sudden changes. We’ve seen things come up quickly in almost every sport so far this year, so there will be some unforeseen challenges ahead.”

Owens joined the WHS staff in 2017 as the offensive coordinator before earning the promotion to head coach almost one year ago. He played football at John A. Holmes HS in Edenton, then was part of the first recruiting class at Old Dominion University in 2009. His coaching career started at his alma mater with two other stops before joining the Pack Pam.

“Summer workouts began June 16th and that was the day we entered uncharted territory,” Owens said. “We were doing conditioning in small groups for a while with the kids getting their temperature checked and filling out paperwork every day before they started. Then we were allowed to go in the weight room and a little later allowed to use a football during workouts. It was all very strange, but we got through it together.”

After a dead period, the Pam Pack returned to the weight room in August and stayed there until the end of October, a time that Owens thinks will be crucial to a successful season.

“Every one of the 62 guys in our program spent that time getting bigger, stronger and faster and some of them made huge gains,” Owens said.  “I’d say we’ve improved our weightlifting by 4,000-5,000 pounds as a program and it should pay off for us soon.”

The team has met twice a week since November for skill development workouts in preparation for the official first day of practice Monday.

One of the many COVID-19 adjustments for other sports has been wearing a mask during competition. The football rule says that players don’t have to wear a mask while their mouthpiece is in, which means during game action. All players, coaches and team officials on the sidelines have to wear masks at all times.

“The mouthpiece in/mask off rule is a really good one,” Owens said. “Masking up while playing football is not functional.”

WHS will have a seven game regular season that starts Feb. 26 at home against Kinston. They’ll have a home scrimmage against Northside on the 20th to prepare.

Home game attendance is limited to 100, including 25 visiting fans.

“We’ve handled PPE, contact tracing, constantly sanitizing equipment and all the other COVID stuff very well,” Owens said. “I’m proud of their effort on and off the field and I’m excited to get going. I told the players last week that we were four Friday’s away from playing a game and their eyes just lit up.”