Area athletes react to Gov. DeWine’s decision on contact sports

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High school football: 2019 season in review

Shawnee High School senior Drew Mitch watched Gov. Mike DeWine’s press conference and then celebrated the news that there will be a high school football season in Ohio this fall with his teammates on a group chat.

Thousands of athletes in the full-contact sports — football, soccer and field hockey — have waited months for the news. They wondered if they would lose their seasons to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused the cancellation of the winter sports championships in March and the entire spring sports season.

When DeWine said Tuesday, “Our order will provide that all sports may go forward,” he provided a morale boost for kids across Ohio.

“I’m very excited to get back to play,” said MItch, who will be the team’s starting quarterback. “It’s been a little nerve-wracking. We’ve been keeping our hopes up.”

Athletes and coaches across the state knew they wouldn’t have to wait much longer for a decision from DeWine. The girls field hockey and boys and girls soccer season starts Friday. The first Friday night of the high school football season is Aug. 28.

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Lakota West senior Kailyn Dudukovich, who was named Ms. Soccer in Ohio last fall as a junior when she scored 50 goals, said she was relieved to hear the news Tuesday because her team has put in so much work this summer with the goal of repeating as state champion. Practice began Aug. 1, but until Tuesday, only teams in the low-contact or no-contact sports — golf, volleyball, tennis and cross country — knew they would get to compete.

“I think we as a team just decided we were going to practice as if the season was going to go on as normal,” said Dudukovich, an Ohio State commit. “We all have been wanting to play ever since the last game we had last season.”

Fairmont senior Sophia Grossman rejoiced in knowing she would get to player her final soccer season. She didn’t know what she would have done if she didn’t get to play.

“The last week has been very nerve-wracking with all the flip-flopping,” she said. “It was sounding more promising. Then it was not sounding as promising.”

Northmont football coach Tony Broering didn’t let his team dwell on the uncertainty. They did not talk about the idea that DeWine might not grant the full-contact sports permission to play. The players just arrived at practice every day and got their work done.

“The boys have put in so much work and effort and energy,” Broering said. “For their efforts, I wanted them to have the reward.”

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Broering hasn’t had to adjust his thinking too much when it comes to the health-and-safety protocols. He called himself a germaphobe who’s used to washing his hands and sanitizing equipment. He has been strict with his team, and the players have handled it well.

“The only difference is wearing the mask all summer,” Broering said. “That’s a small sacrifice for the safety.”

Beavercreek girls soccer coach Steve Popp took the same approach as Broering when it came to playing the waiting game.

“The kids did a great job all summer of training and getting in shape, getting ready for the upcoming season,” Popp said. “We didn’t talk about it not happening, but we knew the possibility of that was real. We didn’t dwell on it too much. The players went through the necessary protocols, training safe. The hardest part was to train for three months and not play any games during that period. That’s hard for any of the teams in any sport to stay focused for that long.”

Edgewood Athletic Director Greg Brown said he was excited for his student-athletes and looking forward to hearing more about the decision in a statewide conference call DeWine was hosting Tuesday night.

“It’s a load off an AD’s mind that we can at least move forward,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll get more guidelines. (Athletes have) done a great job of being patient. It’s made our job a little daunting in that we had to change our schedule constantly. That’s OK. We do things like this for the athletes.”