COVID-19 pandemic leads to JFL season cancellation

COVID-19 pandemic leads to JFL season cancellation

By: JACKSON WILSON

Enquirer Democrat Reporter

Although the Illinois Elementary School Association released a plan detailing that it was going to do everything in its power to make sports possible for middle school student athletes, the Junior Football League campaign is going to remain cancelled for the fall.

“We’re mirroring what the Illinois High School Association is doing,” said Carlinville football coach Chad Easterday.

The only difference between the two plans was that the IHSA had already planned on rescheduling its football season in the spring. The JFL, on the other hand, is going to remain canceled throughout the year. According to Easterday, that move was going to work in the Carlinville atheletes’ favor despite them having to endure the disappointment of not being able to play football.

“The IESA is now coming back with ideas on how to get other sports in,” said Easterday, “We didn’t feel that it was in our best interest to possibly get that going in the spring for that reason. In terms of getting games scheduled on school property, logistics, etc., things weren’t going to work out for us. We didn’t want to give people false hope of that happening. I, of course, feel bad for the kids that didn’t get this opportunity but unfortunately, that’s how things are going to work based on the time we’re living in right now.”

For parents, it was difficult as well, but the safety and security needed for their children’s future was the top priority.

“I’m not going to lie. I’m sad that it had to come to this,” said Regie Byots, the mother of eighth grader Noah Byots. “With it being Noah’s last ride at this level, I know that he and his teammates were looking forward to having another successful season as the leaders of this program. We saw this potentially coming, but it’s still a tough pill to swallow.”

Byots then reflected on how much of a tightly-knit group that Noah’s class had formed under the same core of coaches since it was introduced to the JFL.

“His dad, Craig Reed and all of those other leaders on that sideline have definitely volunteered a large amount of their time to work with these boys during the last four years,” Byots said. “They have built a strong relationship with those boys. We’re obviously not able to play, but that team of eighth graders still has all of their high school years ahead of them. Keeping everyone healthy for that is what truly matters.”

As a parent of multiple boys – a current JFL seventh grader Tate Duckels and an up and coming player in Cal Duckels, Robert Duckels agreed.

“I understand the decision,” R. Duckels said. “I think this was the right call in that sense and I also believe that the IESA didn’t really have much of another choice with where we are right now. It’s obviously unfortunate for players in all of the grades because the kids really want to get back to their normal routines and be able to socialize again. It’s frustrating as a parent to not see Tate play this year, but I respect what the health departments are doing within our state.”

N. Byots and T. Duckels, along with several other football players, will be staying active in other sports during the fall.

N. Byots plans on playing baseball for either the Carlinville Capitals or the Carlinville Middle School itself, depending on the district’s regulations.

T. Duckels is going to continue pursuing golf, in which he has already been highly successful in.

“We simply need to do what we can to better ourselves for next year, even if it’s participating in a different activity,” said N. Byots. “My buddies and I, along with everyone else in the JFL, were bummed that this happened, but we have a lot of upcoming talent in our grade and the ones before us as well. We just have to keep working.”

“Nobody wants to learn this lesson in this particular way, but there is an opportunity for growth with these kids being stuck in the middle of a health crisis,” said R. Duckels. “Tate and his teammates are learning to pull together and help each other out as American citizens while putting all other differences aside. This is something they will truly remember with lots of lessons to cherish as they grow up and become adults.”

The IESA sponsored activities which plan on being held this fall, including boys and girls’ cross country, boys and girls’ golf, baseball and softball.

More information on the IESA’s athletic plan can be found at iesa.org.