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Prep Sports: Football, volleyball and boys soccer open fall practice
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Prep Sports

Prep Sports: Football, volleyball and boys soccer open fall practice

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The football fields, soccer pitches and gymnasiums of the state of Wisconsin were alive with the sounds of practice on Monday as prep football, volleyball and boys soccer teams started their seasons.

The Chi-Hi and McDonell/Eau Claire Regis boys soccer teams started their preparations for the season with both teams opening their schedules next week. Ditto for volleyball teams around the state including Chippewa County as programs will open renovated league schedules also beginning next week.

The Chi-Hi football team hit Dorais Field Monday afternoon for its first practice after handing out equipment and was met with cool and rainy weather, a sharp departure from the normally hot and humid batch Mother Nature often serves up when practices start in early August. But that weather did nothing to soften the football team’s excitement for the season as longtime coach Chuck Raykovich’s opening introduction to the team was met with hearty and boisterous cheers as he and his staff welcomed the players back.

Raykovich’s message at the start of practice was simple — treat every practice and game like it may be your last, because it might.

“That’s exactly what life is all about,” Raykovich said. “It’s a good lesson for these guys to learn don’t just spin your wheels and wait for tomorrow because no one is guaranteed tomorrow.”

The first practice dates for football, volleyball and boys soccer were moved back from their August starts when the WIAA reorganized the fall schedule in July, designated the three sports as ‘higher risk’ amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Cross country, girls swimming, girls tennis and girls golf began their seasons on Aug. 17 and have either started competitions or will be this week.

Additional safety protocols and procedures are in place to help protect against the spread of COVID-19 including daily briefings for the coaches with players to check for possible symptoms. Cardinal gridiron players warmed up five yards apart before breaking into their positional drills to start practice as more athletes returned. Many of the athletes starting sports in the fall have not been involved in athletic action since the winter, so a little return to normalcy was well received.

“They’re excited to be out here,” Raykovich said. “They finally have something to do.”

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Raykovich said his program has strong numbers once again this year, calling the amount of players in the program ‘sky high’. Chi-Hi opens the season on Friday, Sept. 25 at River Falls before hosting Hudson in the program’s home opener on Oct. 2.

Across the street at McDonell, Jason Cox starts his third season leading the Macks in 8-man competition and like the nearby Cardinals, Cox’s squad was ready to get to work.

“Everyone is extremely excited,” Cox said. “In my three years here I haven’t seen them more excited for the first day of practice than today. Everyone’s just been itching to get after it for four or five months ever since the spring when they were stopping playing basketball.”

McDonell joins the newly-created CWWC Conference this season with New Auburn and Gilman, among others. With a veteran team returning, Cox said getting up to speed should be easier given the familiarity his players have with what Cox and his staff want to do. Normally the Macks will hold two practices a day early on in the season but given the unique nature for the fall, McDonell will be hosting one longer practice per day after school with a focus on fitness and players get used to being back in sports.

“We’re just excited to continue to get better and hopefully have a season and make the most of it,” Cox said.

The Macks open the season on Sept. 25 at Alma Center Lincoln before hosting New Auburn at Dorais Field on Saturday, Oct. 3.

The Chi-Hi volleyball and boys soccer programs will each have home events next week as a part of the reformatted Big Rivers Conference season. The volleyball team starts at home on Tuesday, Sept. 15 against River Falls before playing against the Wildcats on the road two days later. The boys soccer team opens in River Falls on Sept. 15 before hosting the Wildcats at Dorais Field on Sept. 17. Both sports are opting split matchups between league teams in the same week.

McDonell/Eau Claire Regis starts the year on Sept. 15 by hosting Arcadia at Casper Park while the McDonell volleyball team also opens the year with a home contest when the Macks welcome Marshfield Columbus on the same day.

“The coaches are excited to be with the kids and the kids are excited to be out here and we’re going to give them every opportunity we can to get a season in here,” Raykovich said.

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