PARMA, Ohio — Week 6 of the high school football season kicks off Friday night across Northeast Ohio. So far this season, some of the biggest questions have revolved around what games are still scheduled. More than 200 individual games have been canceled — largely because of the coronavirus — which has put several schools in a state of flux.
That hasn’t been the case for Padua Fraciscan, however, as the student body has fully bought into full masking and a substantial portion of students getting vaccinated.
The Padua Bruins enter Friday night’s contest with Lake Catholic on a hot streak, which has propelled them to a 4-1 record on the young season. That sterling record has come despite the school having to find new opponents for two games, including last Friday’s contest.
No time to scout the other team? No time to prepare? No problem.
“What you have to do in order to be able to play football specifically is to be very nimble and very flexible and change at moment,” said Padua Franciscan president David Stec. “We went and played football. Bedford called us and they said, ‘we had a field.’ We had buses. We went and played football. It’s good, old fashioned football. They didn’t have scouting. They didn’t have all those things. You coach and you play football and you see who wins.”
Padua won 29-28.
According to score-tracking website, JoeEitel.com, which monitors all Ohio high school football results, there have been more than 200 confirmed cancellations through Week 6. Although not all cancellations are due to the coronavirus, it is presumed that the vast majority of them are.
In 2019, there were only eight cancellations by this point in the season.
On a crisp, sunny Friday afternoon at the football stadium, Padua’s student body gathered for the homecoming pep rally. They chanted, cheered, rallied and got riled up. Nineteen months into a pandemic that has affected every possible way of life, the one hour rally seemed remarkably normal.
Stec said it is the byproduct of cooperation.
“We’re fully masked at the school which allows us to not to have to quarantine. We’ve had very little illness at the school. We had five cases in August and seven in September,” Stec said. “That allows you to be in school but it also allows you play football and soccer and run track and all the things that we love to do. We’re incredibly happy and excited for [the students]. It’s certainly been a very, very difficult 18 months. For us to be able to have the students back and having some sense of normalcy it’s so very, very important.”
In addition to universal masking, Stec said more than half of the student population is fully vaccinated, which has provided the kind of protection that you only see with a great offensive line.
Padua’s 2021 Homecoming King, Benny Frostino, said the school’s COVID-related policies were easy to get behind.
“You kind of took [normalcy] for granted. After the pandemic and all of the chaos from it, it’s a big privilege to be able to stand here and be with all my classmates instead of looking at all of them through a computer screen,” Frostino said. “We all have to do our part.”