By Jeremy Schneider
Over the last few months, little in the world has resembled anything close to normal.
And while Friday’s Purple and Gold Preview Night looked different than last year, it was at least a return to something pre-coronavirus.
For the second straight year, Maumee hosted a night for family and close friends to come and watch the football team, marching band, cheerleaders, and dance team show off what they’ve been working on.
“Tonight did seem kind of normal, and that’s why we started doing this last year, with the community feel,” Panthers football coach Cam Coutcher said. “It was a really cool night. The only thing we missed out on was the free food.”
The Panthers, coming off a 1-9 season in Coutcher’s first year as head coach, had an intrasquad scrimmage. In an offseason full of ups and downs where the season didn’t get an official green light until days before the Preview Night, the scrimmage served as the Panthers’ only action resembling a game before the season kicks off August 28 against Bowling Green on Senior Night.
“I would have liked to have gone up against somebody else,” Coutcher said. “Our kids are sick of hitting each other. That part of it is kind of lost this year.”
New this season due to COVID-19 are capacity limits at high school venues. According to mandates set down by the State of Ohio, outdoor venues are allowed 15 percent of its total capacity or 1,500 spectators, whichever number is fewer. At Maumee, like many other schools, that means general admission tickets are nonexistent, with family members only allowed to attend games.
But even with that limit on the crowd, family members of football players, band members, dancers, and cheerleaders turned out at Kazmaier. According to both Coutcher and Maumee Marching Pride director Eric Boswell, it’s a welcomed shared spotlight between the students in different activities.
“It’s a great opportunity for all of the groups to come together,” Boswell said. “Maumee does a great job of focusing on creating a sense of community amongst all students. Cam Coucher and Emily Ery (cheerleading) are top-notch educators first and foremost. They are wonderful to work with as we strive to create positive learning experiences for all students who are part of Friday nights. I also look forward to collaborating with our new dance advisor, Brittany Patterson.”
While the Marching Pride have performed in competitions in addition to Friday night performances in years past — including earning an A+ rating at last year’s state competition — they will only be performing at home games this year. So any chance to get on the field and perform is meaningful for the students and Boswell.
“I think we all probably took for granted how lucky we were to have performance opportunities so frequently in the past,” Boswell said. “Creating music with others is a special experience that just can’t be replicated through a Zoom video. I remember back to our first practice this summer. Even though it was only a warm up exercise, the first time I heard the brass and woodwinds play, it was such a joy to hear them again.”
For all of the fall coaches and directors, this offseason has been unlike anything they’ve faced before. From masks to social distancing requirements — which was evident by the cones marking standing spots on the sideline for football players — it’s been another layer to getting their students ready for competition and performances.
“As a head coach getting ready for the season schematically and making sure we’re building relationships with these guys and build leadership, and now you’ve got to help keep the kids safe from the coronavirus as well,” Coutcher said.
But none of them have received any pushback from the students.
“The first day after we got the green light, they were really excited and we got down to practice,” Coutcher said. “They are really focused on what they have to do. It’s because our leadership is really strong. They’re focused on the now, what we have to do right now. We’re blessed to be here every day.”
Boswell added, “The students have overall been wonderful. I’d guess many don’t love all of the safety precautions (masks, distancing, temp checks, daily check-in form, etc), but they have taken them in stride.”