In a lot of ways, it looked like a regular Monday afternoon football practice.
The Wayne Christian football team took to the field at 5 p.m. and went through two hours of practice, including some individual drills and team defensive work.
The Eagles practiced hard as sweat dripped down from their foreheads. However, there were some signs things were different.
The first sign that things were different was the temperature checks. Another sign was the bottles of hand sanitizer sitting along the bench and all the players using their water bottles.
“We’re following all of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association guidelines,” Wayne Christian head coach Luis Miranda said. “At one point, we weren’t sure what a season would look like, but we were just excited to finally be able to have a season.”
During practice, Miranda and his staff coached the Eagles as they usually would, but in another sign of how much has changed, they were socially distant from each other and the players.
Wayne Christian, who plays eight-man football, has to adjust to practicing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For us, it was a matter of believing that we were going to have a season,” Miranda said. “We approached every day, believing that we were going to have a season.
“We feel like we’re doing everything right in order to have a season.”
The Eagles went 2-17 during their first two seasons on the gridiron before having a breakthrough season last year. The program went 4-3-1 and had its first winning season in school history.
Jayquan Curry is the team’s leading returning rusher and receiver. Curry rushed for 553 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 30 passes for 870 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
The biggest challenge for the Eagles this season is replacing starting quarterback Addison Johnson, who graduated. Still, Miranda is confident that new starting quarterback Devin Nixon will help Wayne Christian fly even higher in 2020.
“The players truly believe that they are going to have a magical season this year,” Miranda said. “They truly believe they can win every game, and so they approach every practice knowing it could be the last one.”
However, the Eagles are not trying to look too far ahead because Miranda knows the season could end at any moment.
Miranda praised his kids for their ability to deal with adverse situations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since the first day of practice, I’ve told the kids that this could be the last practice. We could play one game, and that’s it,” Miranda said. “The mentality is we count it as a privilege to be able to play.
“We just believing that we’re going to able to have a season.”
As has been the case since March, the safety of the student-athletes is paramount. As a NCISAA member school, Wayne Christian must follow the standards for safety created by the NCISAA.
The Eagles plan to open their season on the road against Bethel Christian Academy on Sept. 25.