Even though he would love to have his team play this fall, Lodi prep football coach Dave Puls is glad the uncertainty about the 2020 season is over. The district is moving forward with cross country and girls tennis this fall, while football, boys soccer, volleyball and girls swimming are moving to the spring.
“We have to accept the fact the decision has been made and make the best of it,” Puls said. “There was a lot of talk and people pushed for us to go in the fall and we were ready to play if given the green light. The decision was made that it was not safe enough to move on. Now we have to handle the next hurdle of playing in the spring.”
The WIAA voted to allow teams to move fall sports to a modified season in the spring, but there will not be a postseason.
While they were in a holding pattern until a decision on the season was made, the Blue Devils were preparing for the potential fall season. They held five contact days in July.
“We were fortunate because we were one of the few teams who got all our contact days in this summer,” Puls said.
The Blue Devils have also been putting in time in the weight room. Plus, players have been holding short practices run by the captains.
“We have had our weight room going all of July and August and that will keep going strong,” Puls said. “We got the okay to continue with workouts as long as we follow guidelines and limit numbers.”
Puls is hopeful for more team activities after the school year starts, but he is not sure what they will be.
“Once we get started with school, I have some ides of things we could potentially do,” Puls said. “We would like to do some things on the new turf field once it is done. We would get out and run around like an open gym. The district is still allowing open gyms if you follow guidelines.”
The turf project at Lodi Stadium is scheduled to be finished in the next two weeks.
“It is disappointing to not be able to get on the field right away and play, but we need to remember how blessed we are to have the field. It took a lot of work from the community, the school board and the district,” Puls said. “We are lucky we got it done when we did, because it probably would not have happened for three or four years because of COVID. We are lucky we went through with the campaign when we did.”
Since he had the chance to meet with his players during their contact days and in the weight room, Puls has not had to do virtual meetings with his team. But he plans to do so in the coming months.
“I do a lot of communication with emails, but I do see quite a few players during the week in the weight room,” Puls said. “I’m going to start having Zoom meetings, so we can touch base. The biggest reason is to make sure people are taking care of their school responsibilities.”
There will be challenges for the Blue Devils with a spring season, especially the weather. When practices start in March, there likely will be snow on the ground.
“I have been putting thought into what it is going to be like in the spring and weather will be a factor,” Puls said. “I think we are going to have to invest in shovels for the football and soccer teams to get out and remove snow to expose the field so the sun can do the rest. We will find a way to get the fields ready to go.”
The Blue Devils’ have started work on their seven-game schedule for the spring, but they still have dates to fill.
“Right now, it looks like we are going to play Poynette and potentially Columbus,” Puls said. “There are teams like Lakeside Lutheran and Luther Prep who are trying to play this fall, but if they get shut down after a few weeks, we could play them. My hope is to fill as much of the schedule as possible right now before anybody else shuts down and everybody is scrambling to find games.”
As much as Puls wants to coach football, he knows that there are more important things at this time and the return to play will happen at some point.
“Football is important to a lot of us, but the most important things are the health of our students and the academics side for our students,” Puls said.