Nov. 16, 2019. In pandemic years, it feels like a lifetime ago.
That was the last time the Arkansas Tech University football team heard the cheers of its home crowd at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field.
After 518 days of waiting, the Wonder Boys will have that experience again at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 17, during their spring Green and Gold scrimmage.
“Our kids have done a really good job handling everything and our staff has done a great job of remaining positive,” said Kyle Shipp, ATU head football coach, when asked to reflect upon the challenges COVID-19 has posed for his program. “The coaches have done a good job keeping the guys focused on the objective ahead, which is the 2021 season and getting better on a daily basis.”
The Wonder Boys, whose 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19, got a taste of competition earlier this spring when the NCAA allowed them to scrimmage against Northeastern State University (Okla.) and Mississippi College.
“Having the two scrimmages was huge for us,” said Shipp. “Our guys knew going into the semester that those were a possibility, and they were just excited to line up against somebody else. It was really good for our young kids. Our group that redshirted didn’t play any games in 2019 and then there weren’t any games in 2020, so they haven’t played a game since the fall of 2018. It gave them a chance to get those game day jitters out, and it gave us film against someone other than ourselves to study. Those live reps against someone else will really help us because we’re a young team.”
Shipp expects approximately 70 players to dress out for the Green and Gold scrimmage on Saturday.
“We’re looking to see which guys can help us from a special teams aspect and which guys have put themselves in a spot to be a starter or a significant contributor,” said Shipp. “It’s also about having fun, especially with a crowd out there in our home stadium. To have their families, friends and fans out there cheering them on, that will make our guys extremely happy.”
Face coverings and social distancing will be required for fans attending the scrimmage. No admission will be charged. No concessions will be sold. Fans will be allowed to bring a water bottle.
Talk to you on the radio. But not this Saturday. I have to take down my friend, broadcasting partner and fellow honorary coach Kelly Davis. Go Green! Beat the Gold!
Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.