Prep Football

Independence football deals with COVID-19 in preseason camp but is ready to go for practice

Independence head coach Justin Putz talks to his players during the second quarter of their game at West Delaware High S
Independence head coach Justin Putz talks to his players during the second quarter of their game at West Delaware High School in Manchester on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Even before its first official day of practice, Independence’s football team dealt with what surely multiple teams around the state will have to deal with this season: a COVID-19 timeout.

The Mustangs got in two days of their preseason camp last week before having to call it off because of what head coach Justin Putz said was a coronavirus situation within the coaching staff.

Things are OK now.

“We should be good to go,” Putz said Sunday night. “It’s kind of similar to summer in that we’ve been working with (Buchanan) county health (department). Just doing that.”

Putz also is activities director at the school, so he knows the safety guidelines as well as anyone. Iowa just finished what was generally perceived as a successful baseball and softball season.

No one knows how the fall sports season will go.

“I certainly don’t want to have anybody have to go through (this),” Putz said. “It was certainly not the way we wanted camp to go ... But we’ll deal with it.

“You just have to follow all the protocols and keep as much space as possible. At some point in time, with football, it gets a little harder than a lot of places.”

He was asked if he thinks we’ll have a conclusion to this football season, as we did with baseball and softball.

“Yeah, I think so. I hope so. That’s the mindset you have to have going into it,” he said. “I don’t see politicians or anything like that coming in and saying ‘Hey, we’re shutting it down.’ You try and push through, and if there is a pause, there is a pause. It’s similar to baseball, if you (have something come up) the last two weeks, your season is over then at that point in time.

“You go out there and do the best you can to stay healthy. The greater challenge with this is school (opening). That’s what baseball and softball didn’t have ... That’ll be a unique challenge that we’ll all deal with.”

Independence is coming off a great 2019 season that saw it go 9-0 in the regular season. The Mustangs lost their first Class 3A playoff game, to Pella.

Do-everything quarterback Logan Schmitt (3,700 yards rushing and passing and 37 total touchdowns) was among the many graduation losses. Putz said senior Caleb Straw, junior Keegan Schmitt (Logan’s brother) and sophomore Mitch Johnson all will be taking reps in practice in hopes of replacing him.

Despite so many new guys having to be counted on, if there’s a program that has momentum, this would be it.

“It always feels good coming off a good year,” Putz said. “And it feels good coming off a good baseball season. I thought our guys did a nice job there. They came into preseason workouts with a good attitude. We’ve had more kids come out, more kids who are freshmen and sophomores who want to be a part of it. So definitely a lot of those things build some momentum there.

“One thing that is a little concerning is this year where the offseason has been abbreviated. We’ve got a bunch of new pieces, we haven’t done the 7-on-7, our team camp was canceled. We have a lot of unknowns right now.”

Keep a look out for freshman lineman Tono Cornell, too. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder open enrolled from Vinton-Shellsburg and is considered a potential big-time college recruit when the time comes.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“He’s certainly got the size,” Putz said. “We’ll see how things go as we go along. But certainly Tono has been great so far. We’re excited he decided to come here. We’re pretty pumped to have him.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.