MONROE, N.C. (WBTV)-- High school football players in North Carolina get to play their first games this week, but the delay until spring is creating a unique situation for many schools.
Basketball playoffs are also this week and in Monroe players are being pulled in two directions as they prepare for games in both sports in the same week.
“It’s been an experience,” said coach Johnny Sowell.
For the last 4 weeks, 9 of the 10 basketball players have not only practiced and played games, they have also participated in football practice on the same days.
“I get exhausted not tired,” said Jake Crump who is a senior football and basketball player. “We all have the drive to do it.”
Even with a busy schedule, the basketball team managed to make the playoffs and will take on West Rowan on Tuesday in the first round of the 3A playoffs. If they win on Tuesday, they will play again on Thursday. The football team will play their first game Friday as they will host the defending 3A champion Charlotte Catholic Cougars.
A long week as well as a TOUGH week.
But being busy and crossing over sports is nothing new for coach Sowell. He is not only the head basketball coach, but he is also the head football coach. He’s done both for 17 years and been coaching for 36 years.
This has been a year like none other and he marvels at what these young men have been able to do on the field, the court, and the classroom.
“It’s a challenge for them because it’s different,” said coach. “As long as those guys know that if they want the opportunity to play the game of basketball-- to play the game of football-- you have to have your academics to get it done.”
Time management is everything at Monroe.
For the last 4 weeks, the schedule has been consistently busy. School until 3:05, then an hour and 15 minutes basketball practice, 5 to 10 minute break, then a 2 and half hour football practice.
During basketball practice, it’s a lot of shooting and working on the mental side of the game.
Sure football is physical, but teams are only allowed 15 minutes of contact so that helps to keep the guy from getting burnt out and beat up too much.
For now, the NCHSAA plans is to play basketball playoff games on Tuesdays and Thursdays with football taking place on Friday. But in the times of this pandemic, you never know what could happen with the schedule and Monroe is ready for anything. They are even ready to play a basketball game and a football game in the same day if need be.
“I know my basketball kids, those kids can handle it,” said coach. “I’m sure they would love to do it because it would be new to them. And I would love to do it because it would be new to me.”
And one more thing, this program could do this again once track season starts on April 12th. It would be a scenario they are use to because coach Sowell is the head track coach as well.
“It’s gonna happen,” said coach.