LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — With the new school year on the horizon, extracurricular activities and athletics are also set to resume after a tumultuous 2020.
Coaches on both sides of the state line are preparing for a new season.
Lee’s Summit North football vividly remembers how last season ended.
"It was devastating, we all heard about it together. I was with some of the football guys, took a few moments, stared at the ground, tears coming to our eyes," recalled senior linebacker Owen Cole.
Just before the playoffs kicked off, the Broncos’ campaign was halted by a COVID-19 positive test and subsequent quarantine protocols. This year, they’re determined to safely stay on the field.
"A lot of us have gotten the vaccine, most of us are, we’ve talked to the guys bout getting it and being safe, and we really just want to finish the season," Cole said.
His head coach, Jamar Mozee, said he’s encouraging, not mandating, vaccination.
"Not being scared of it, there’s different things out there, every household is different. Just that, I feel like it’s okay to get it, but you can’t push that on kids either," Mozee said.
Across the state line at Mill Valley, they’re taking a similar approach to vaccines.
"That’s a personal choice, is what it comes down to. I leave that up to the families involved, that’s how we’ve been dealing with it for the most part," said high school head football coach Joel Applebee.
The two-time defending state champs repeated under strict COVID-19 guidelines last year.
De Soto Schools are mandating masks for the new term, and the Jaguars say they’re prepared to navigate protocols again.
"Ultimately, we don’t look at it as a mandate, we look at it as another thing we have to deal with and not make it a distraction. I think going through a whole year wearing them, it won’t be a major adjustment for the kids at all," Applebee said.
With a three-peat in their sights, the roster knows what it has to do.
"Me and my teammates, we like to follow the rules. Stay healthy, stay in shape, we want all of our players on the field, it’s good we had last year," senior running back Reice Kennedy said.
The coaches and staff overseeing extracurricular activities and athletics said they’re on a razor’s edge, whether they made it to the finish line, or didn’t at all.
"That’s always in the back of your mind," Applebee said.
"If we get an outbreak, you get a forfeit. The scary part is last year it happened to us in the playoffs. I don’t think anyone wants to relive that again," Mozee said.
His district announced Thursday that Lee's Summit students will have a mask mandate for at least the first quarter of the year before the board of education reevaluates in October.