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Wolfpack football full steam ahead, for now

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

Claremont High School’s football coach, Shane Hile, wants to get a custom tee shirt made—on the front it will say “keep eight feet apart,” and on the back “wipe everything down.”

Such are the new mantras of a coach trying to organize an orderly practice during the pandemic while keeping his team healthy and safe.

“We play it eight feet apart instead of six,” Coach Hile said. “We have spray bottles and towels out there. Every time somebody uses a bar they spray and wipe it down. Safety obviously is the biggest priority right now.”

The coaching staff takes each player’s temperature when they arrive for practice and asks them a series of questions if they are experiencing any COVID related symptoms.

Coach Hile has divided his team into two separate groups that practice at different times during the afternoon. Each group is split into squads of about six players to run drills and lift weights in shifts. It’s kind of like a game of musical chairs, only no one is left out when the music stops.

The goal is to maximize the space available so student athletes have no problem maintaining a safe distance while still getting in the work to condition for the upcoming season.

“The biggest thing for me is that right now they are lifting to prevent injuries,” Coach Hile said. “We have to do it outside but that is fine. The boys are not allowed inside the weight room but it’s been going pretty well so far.”

The Wolfpack finished the season last year 6-5 overall, 2-3 in Palomares League. Midway through last semester CIF officials announced that Claremont would play in the San Antonio League for 2020 which includes Don Lugo, West Covina and Chaffey.

In a quirky twist of fate, Claremont faced Chaffey in the first round of the CIF tournament last season and narrowly lost, 22-20, in a game that came down to the last few seconds on the clock.

This season the Pack has 10 games that will be played in unusually cold and, most likely, wet conditions because it will be winter. Claremont’s first game will be the annual rivalry against Damien which is scheduled to take place in La Verne on January 7.

“It’s a more competitive league for us,” Coach Hile said. “We always had a hard time with Glendora and Ayala which are pretty big schools. We kind of felt like we had a league preview with Chaffey [which was] a great game that went down to one of the last plays.”

However, he says the county health department needs to dial back the restrictions on group activities in order for the team to be ready to compete.

For one thing, the team will at some point need to begin running plays that involve actual contact.

“We are very excited [about this season.] We feel we have a very good team this year. We made the playoffs last year with basically a junior team with only about six to eight seniors.”

Bolstering the Pack’s chances are a host of seniors who have been teammates for three seasons. The offense will be led by Ricky Murillo at quarterback along with receivers Isaiah Love and Miguel Lopez, along with Ryan Campuzano, who was all CIF first team last year.

“Across the board I feel good. We’ve got good line guys with Eddie Flores, Ian Daniel and Luke Pruitt,” Coach Hile said.

The football team re-started its practice schedule three weeks ago after briefly working out in August. Coach Hile credits cooperation from Claremont High School administration for getting things back on track. For now it is just one step at a time.

“We don’t mind doing the extra safety stuff. It’s good for [the team] to be out here, for their mental health.”

Still, there remains a question mark about the season taking place as planned, particularly because Los Angeles County remains in the most restrictive tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. As of this week CIF officials are holding firm on the schedule announced in July, for all teams not just football.

“We feel very good about this team, we really hope this season happens because they are a really good football team,” Coach Hile said. “If that is going to happen, then they are going to have to ease off the restrictions in six weeks at the most, otherwise its going to be pretty difficult.”

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