jeff norris

Alpha Omega head football coach Jeff Norris looks on during a football practice early last fall.

With the 2020 season in limbo, Alpha Omega Academy head coach Jeff Norris is still keeping faith that football will be played this fall.

He also recognizes the reality of an uncertain situation spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

“What is my confidence level? It's not very high right now,” Norris said. “I heard somebody use the term bruised optimism, so I guess I have some bruised optimism. I'm hopeful and would love to see some people step up and make a positive decision for us and for the kids.”

COVID-19 cases have surged nationwide in recent weeks, casting doubt over the upcoming season. Some high school and college athletics associations around the country have already begun suspending fall sports as a result.

Norris is staying ‘cautiously optimistic,’ however, that the Lions will be able to play out their season. TAPPS delayed the start of fall sports Friday morning, and will not allow football games until at least September 28.

“I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll get a season,” he said. “I just think the kids need it, they need that outlet. There's a reason a lot of kids come to school, and it's not school. I just think it's critical for them to get back in their routines and get that physical activity and competition in there.”

Many schools throughout Texas have suspended workouts at some point this summer, but Alpha Omega — which as a six-man program, would seem able to social distance easier than larger schools — has yet to shut down.

This week marked the Lions’ most notable change, as they took off from practicing drills, but continued to lift weights in small groups.

“We've done some of our own mandating on that,” Norris added. “They've still been doing their weightlifting, but we haven't been out on the field. Weightlifting has been easier because they've been in separate groups — there's only six or seven of them lifting at a time, whereas we've had 15-20 kids for our practices out on the field. I just decided to not do the practices this week, and they came to lift two days instead of four. 

“We've kind of scaled back a little bit here and there, but we haven't seen a lot of spreading around the school or program or anything, so we're fairly safe ... and still rolling along.”

Despite the uncertain outlook for the upcoming season, Norris has been impressed by the commitment he’s seen so far this summer — from the younger kids, to seniors like Cole Garrison, Jacob Poteete, Boyd Hanagriff and Patrick Riley. 

After an injury-riddled 2019 season ended with an early postseason exit, the coach has noticed a newfound hunger from his returning players.

“We had a youth camp this week with 23 kids sign up that will basically be middle-school aged players, and we had our varsity guys come and help run the camp and coach the kids,” Norris said. “Just the fact that so many varsity kids showed up to teach was encouraging. 

“There's definitely a lot of excitement, and some unfinished business. They were disappointed with how the season ended last year, so they're really chomping at the bit — and hoping they get to play.”