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Walpole athletes train amidst uncertainty

A football player works on getting off the line with no wasted movement.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Outside of the NBA and its bubble, there are no sports in America that seem guaranteed to happen this year. Major League Baseball has seen teams have to shut down due to outbreaks. The NCAA has essentially stopped everything but football, which has seen two of its biggest conferences opt not to play and an increasing suspicion that even with an abundance of tests and funding, the season won't last more than a few weeks. Boxing and the UFC have fights cancelled on every card. The US Open will look like a shell of itself with so many players opting not to play. The Masters is in November.

With this much uncertainty, you would think Walpole athletes would be taking it easy. Why train for a season that has a decent chance of not happening, or shutting down after a few games? But on Sunday, a plethora of Walpole’s competitors were on the high school track, working towards an uncertain future.

In upwards of ninety-degree heat, a group of football players was running meticulous footwork drills. They were constantly correcting each other on how to best get out of a break, or make sure they don’t give defensive backs an extra step to recover if they’ve beaten them off the line.

The group work on some drills using cones on the field.

When I asked them the state of football in Walpole, Jaami Abdal-Khallaq, Robea Champagne, and Nick Leo said, “We’re ready.” They noted that key losses to the team included quarterback Will Jarvis, but that they have some guys they expect to step up.

“Look out for Tucker Hazell. He plays safety, he plays slot receiver, he can play anything you need him to play. He’s cold. Running back Andrew Falzone is also good. He got called up his freshman year.”

When questioned if it was tough training for a season they now know is about six months away, they were definitive that it was not.

“No, because Walpole has been looked down on. So, we’re just trying to change that and make a come-up again. Be the best we can be, really. The more time, the better we can be, in my opinion.”

Nice concentration on this catch, despite wearing a COVID mask while running the route.

When I noted that the football year starting in February might mean they could have the unique opportunity to play a varsity fall sport as well as football, I was shot down immediately.

“No, football is more important.”

Just across the field, a couple of BC High lacrosse players were working on their skills by shooting at an empty net and jogging to retrieve any misses. One, Walpole native Andrew Walsh, was brutally honest when I asked him if it’s tough to get motivated in the face of such uncertainty and so much time before any games.

“Yeah,” he told me. “It’s pretty brutal.”

Andrew Walsh fires a shot at an empty net in preparation of BC High’s lacrosse season.

As a football player as well, he still felt good about the Eagles’ chances this year - though he did note he felt even better about the lacrosse season.

“The football team should be pretty good. We have some good talent. The older kids, the younger kids are going to be really good, too. And lacrosse is going to be really good. We have some good talent and a lot of really committed kids."

But if you thought shooting at empty nets and doing receiver drills in the heat wasn’t fun enough, in the bleachers, a couple of volleyball players were running the stairs. Diana Hussaini and Morgan Dority noted that with the season being pushed back, at this point, while it’s tough to get motivated, the number one thing pushing them to work so hard is each other.

A pair of Walpole volleyball players run the bleacher stairs to prepare for their coming season.

“Normally, we’d be having tryouts this week, but our tryouts got pushed back a whole month, almost. So, we’re coming to the high school and working out on the bleachers and the track. We also have our captain’s practices twice a week. It’s a little bit tough, but coming together, we push each other more.”

Whether they get to show off their hard work or not, Walpole’s athletes will be ready.

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