Catawba Ridge trainer Katie Runyon checks the temperature of an athlete before practice. All three Fort Mill high schools have started workouts.

FORT MILL – With players and coaches wearing masks and working in small groups around campus, football is taking on a different look this season – at least for now.

All three local high schools – Nation Ford, Fort Mill and Catawba Ridge started Phase I workouts earlier in the week. The guidelines from the S.C. High School League allows for three phases to the reopening approach. The guidelines outline only Phase I of the approach and state that Phase II and Phase III will be revisited in the future. Phase I started for these teams June 15, but has no end date. There is no concrete date of when Phase II or Phase III will begin.

About 82 athletes showed up at Nation Ford on the first day of football workouts Monday. Not every player showed up at one time, but due to the guidelines recommended by the High School League, the school has two planned times for athletes to show up and workout. The Falcons had six groups of athletes spread throughout their campus during their two time slots.

Nation Ford head coach Michael Allen said planning was key to everything.

“It has been going smoothly,” he said. “The kids are buying in.”

Allen said had the coaches not been planning for this, he could see where situations would have arisen from having this many kids show up.

“It is a logistical nightmare,” he said. “But we were so organized it went smooth. Communication has been key. It really made your heart swell seeing the kids again. We got a good plan in place.”

Fort Mill had 94 athletes and did a similar process with two staggered time periods. They also had six stations spread throughout their campus.

“It went a lot smoother than I thought it would with the whole checking in process,” said Fort Mill head coach Rob McNeely. “The kids got into a routine and they know what to do now.”

In Phase I teams aren’t allowed to use a football, so the majority of these workouts are basically conditioning and strength training. McNeely said his program is running drills specific to the positions the athletes will play.

“We got to take baby steps with them,” he said.

At Catawba Ridge, the Copperheads had 80 athletes show up and were holding workouts just three days a week. Like the other local teams, they staggered workouts times for two different occasions so not every athlete would show up at the same time. They also had five stations spread out throughout their campus.

“We had no more than eight kids on a field,” said Copperheads’ head coach Zac Lendyak. “We have been pleased with how it has been so far. I couldn’t have been happier given the circumstances.”

The High School League also states that everyone should participate in the core recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which includes things such as practicing six feet social distancing, washing hands, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects, wearing a face mask in public, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing and other common sense approaches.

Mac Banks:, @fortprep

Nation Ford’s Eli Whitner works out on the school’s football field. Phase I of workouts has started for the Falcons as they ease back into things.
Fort Mill’s Devin Salazar runs drills as part of workouts at Fort Mill High. The Jackets have players spread out all over their campus as part of workouts.