Madison’s Louis Humes shares a light moment with a teammate during the team’s first practice on Tuesday. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Madison’s Louis Humes shares a light moment with a teammate during the team’s first practice on Tuesday. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
With temperatures north of 90 degrees and the heat index above 100, Tuesday was hardly the best weather to hold football practice. But for Madison’s Cubs, there couldn’t have been a more perfect day to get back on the field.

After months of meeting virtually and wondering if they would ever get back to work, Madison’s football team held its first practice in preparation for the 2020 season. Footballs, pads and helmets were no where to be seen, but at the end of the day, it was still practice.

“It was a little nerve-wracking, just trying to take it one day at a time,” Madison football coach Leroy Wilson said. “We were just trying to make sure that we were working with the right information. It seemed like for a while there, sometimes every day or every week, we were getting different information. I’m just glad to be on the field with the guys and I’m sure they were itching like we were and getting cabin fever.”

This week marked the first time that high school athletic teams have been allowed back on their respective fields since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all activities in mid-March.

At Madison High School, several sports took to the field on Monday for their first conditioning sessions but football waited until Tuesday to get started.

Unlike many fall sports, the spotlight will be on football this fall as schools attempt to navigate the unknowns in the new coronavirus world. Due to the nature of the sport, it is impossible for football players to socially distance and the chances of transmission of the disease are greater than most.

Wilson said that he and his staff are doing everything possible to follow the mandated rules. Coaches wore masks during practice and players were required to bring their own water. No football was used and trash cans played the role of opposing players rather than the scout team.

Still, it was impossible for players and coaches to always maintain six feet of distance, not with 65 players and half a dozen coaches on the small, junior high practice field. But when it was convenient, players were spread out and coaches attempted to teach from as far away as possible.

“I knew that when the guidelines came out, most of them were going to be geared toward football and I get it, we’re a high-contact sport,” Wilson said. “We’re not going to be the team that gets us shut down. Whatever they say or encourage us to do, we’re going to do that. We’re not going to part of it, we’re going to do it all. It’s not going to be the Madison Cubs that gets on the news for shutting the sport down for the entire state.”

It’s all a part of the process of getting ready for the upcoming season, which promises to be an historic one for the Madison football program. A brand-new artificial surface is just weeks from completion and the Cubs will play all nine regular-season games on the surface for the first time in school history, including six at home. The COVID-19 pandemic may have blunted the excitement of the season, but it’s still there.

“It was exciting when the announcement was made but that was just an announcement. It hadn’t happened yet. Now it’s happening,” Wilson said of the FieldTurf. “Now when you get updates that the turf is going down or you drive by and see it every day, it gets you excited and I know the guys are excited. None of us can wait until we get out there.”

But Wilson is also realistic. He knows what the state and the country faces and understands that there is a very real possibility that part of the season — or even the entire season — could be canceled due to the disease.

“Everybody I’ve talked to this summer seems to have the same mind: Let’s just get to August and let’s hope we have a season,” Wilson said. “Right now, I’m just taking it day-to-day and just being out here makes it a great day. I’m just hoping we can be back out tomorrow.”