Helena gets back to work following historic 2019 season

By GRAHAM BROOKS | Special to the Reporter

HELENA ­– As the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to live sports months ago, visible signs of getting back to normal are starting to be seen at the high school level, as the Helena Huskies held their first varsity football workouts in preparation for the 2020 season on Tuesday, June 9, coming off a historic 2019 season.

Although voluntary workouts were allowed beginning June 1, Helena head coach Richie Busby said the Huskies decided to keep their start date of June 9 to avoid confusion.

“Our thing is, we’ve created a Google classroom with that document that asks all these questions like if they’ve had a fever, have they been coughing or had a hard time breathing and things like that,” Busby said. “They do that on their phone before they even come here and get to practice. We check their temperature every day and it’s different, but whatever we’ve got to keep our kids safe and keep them healthy, we’re going to do it right now to have a football season in the fall.”

While practice did resume, there were still plenty of precautionary measures taken to ensure the safety of the players and coaching staff due to COVID-19.

The biggest challenge was having to hold a full practice with no footballs, as players were seen in shorts and T-shirts running through a variety of drills with social distancing in place.

To simulate footballs, the Helena running backs group rolled up personal towels to use as makeshift footballs while running through drills to adhere to safety rules put in place by Shelby County Schools.

While its challenging for a team that lost 29 seniors last season to get a good feel for this year with no spring practice and strict restrictions in place, Busby said the Huskies, who won their first region title last year, will get through it.

“With our county, with the extra rule of us not really being able to work on football skills in the month of June as an extra layer of protection, I mean we’re losing 29 seniors off our team and we were behind as it was, but without spring and losing 10 days there and now we’re going to lose three weeks of install time,” Busby said. “We can still meet and install, but the ball is the game so it’s going to put us behind a little bit. But at the same time, we’re just trying to be cautious. If we don’t follow the rules and go out and have an outbreak, it doesn’t matter if we’re able to use a ball or not, it defeats the purpose, so we’ll get through it. Right now, it’s just trying to reacclimate them to the heat, the weight room and practice. It’s challenging, but we’re not the only ones dealing with it.”

The Huskies are coming off an incredible 2019 season where they reached the playoffs for the first time since 2015, including that region title with a perfect 6-0 region record in Class 6A, Region 5 to finish the season 9-2 overall.

Coming into 2020, the Huskies will rely on returning starters from that team, and a mix of young talent as they begin to make goals for the 2020 season.

“Today being our first day we haven’t had a whole lot of time to talk with them and get them all in close quarters in a room to really talk about what we’ve got to do,” Busby said. “We’re going to wait on that until we get a little more go ahead as far as social distancing goes but we’ve got three of our offensive linemen back, we’ve got our tailback back and we’ve got a few pieces back and those guys will help transition the younger guys into what we’ve got to accomplish.”

Helena is set to begin the 2020 season on Friday, Aug. 21 at home against Dallas County.