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  • David A.F. Sweet

'We're Just Happy to Play Football'

By Rebecca Foster-Goodman “Touchdown, Lake Forest” is not a phrase we normally associate with spring. But let’s face it; the past 15 months have been anything but normal.

Football programs across the country have had to decide whether football would be another casualty of COVID-19. Some states canceled football altogether, while others -- including Illinois -- pushed the season to spring. At a time when tennis rackets and baseball gloves were coming out of the closet, Lake Forest Junior Scouts football was making its spring debut.

Finley and Andy Goodman Led by head coach Cory Spann, the team consists of more than two dozen seventh and eighth graders. Some of the boys have been playing for years, while others are holding a football for the first time this season. The team plays nearby high school feeder teams from New Trier, Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South.

My husband Andy Goodman has been coaching some of these boys since they were in fourth grade. Both of our sons played football at the School of St. Mary in Lake Forest. When the season was officially canceled by the Archdiocese of Chicago, my husband embraced the opportunity for our son Finley to play his final months of eighth grade as a Junior Scout, while Andy helped coach the team.

“When I knew my son and his friends weren’t going to play a final season for St Mary’s, I was determined to find an opportunity for them to play,” Andy said. “I was thrilled to hear the Junior Scouts were holding football clinics and a spring season that these boys could be a part of.”

Spann and the other coaches remained positive that the season would be delayed, not canceled. As they waited on a decision about a traditional football season, they organized a 7-on-7 season for the fall. When that ended, they kept the boys in football mode by holding a series of weekly training sessions at Turf Time in Lake Bluff. These weekly sessions gave the boys an opportunity to safely do drills and practice the basic skills of the game, while keeping spirits and momentum high.

“Keeping the boys’ heads in the game of football was extremely important to us, especially since we knew it would be a challenge competing with spring sports like baseball,” Andy said.

Many of the boys have been forced to juggle two sports this spring, but the coaches have seen real dedication and love for the sport of football emerge. And although they lost their first game to the Junior Trevians (New Trier), they came back strong with a 24-8 victory over the Junior Spartans (Glenbrook North). Regular season play ends May 9, followed by two weeks of playoff games. It is a short season, but the players and coaches are grateful for the playing time.

“It’s spring, and we’re wearing masks. It is different. But it’s still football,” said Finley, who plays quarterback. “This team has made us feel like the world is back to normal for a while.

“It doesn’t matter what season it is,” he added. “We’re just happy to play football.”


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