UH continuing to adjust to pandemic with kickoff three weeks away


(Courtesy Hawaii Athletics)

Time stands still for no one. For the University of Hawaii football team, kickoff for the 2020 season is just three weeks away.

As the Oct. 24 season opener at Fresno State inches closer, the Rainbow Warriors took the practice field on Saturday for the first time in three days. Earlier in the week, four players tested positive for COVID-19, putting a temporary halt to football-related activities for the team.

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“We’re not gonna concede. We’re not gonna say, ‘Hey, we’re just gonna have cases.’ No way. We want to keep it out of here. We don’t want anybody (testing positive), I surely don’t want it,” head coach Todd Graham said in a media Zoom call following Saturday’s practice. “I don’t want anybody on this team to have it so our guys, it’s frustrating because they want to play, they want to practice, they want to do all these things but on the same hand, we gotta make sure to be safe and I do feel like we’re doing everything right as far as we’re not going (out), we got masks on.

“But even that, we’re finding things every day that we can get better on and we’re finding ways every day to keep each other safe because at the end of the day, if we want to play, we’ve got to do a better job of keeping each other healthy and safe.”

The names of the four players who tested positive have not yet been disclosed publicly. However, all four remain in isolation. Each of the four will be out of practice for a minimum of 14 days and possibly longer depending on their symptoms. Additionally, each will undergo cardiac evaluations before getting cleared to rejoin the team on the field.

Graham says there are only six full fall camp practices remaining for the team before the focus shifts to preparation for Fresno State. He also said that as of Saturday, the offense is ahead of the defense. However, challenges persist on both sides of the ball, especially since new schemes are being installed by a new coaching staff in the middle of a pandemic.

“There is difference. You have to make sure you’re not only coaching the technique and the scheme, but you’re also coaching the social distancing on the field,” new defensive coordinator Victor Santa Cruz said. “Every practice, it’s all hands on deck to make sure that it’s safety first and making sure you’re doing all those things to be able to play the game. It Is different, but different isn’t necessarily bad.

“College football is an area where we gotta keep getting better. We gotta adhere to the things keeping us safe and adhere to the things that help keep our program safe and put us in the best health possible.”

While quarterback Chevan Cordeiro is viewed by Graham as the leader of the team, Santa Cruz said senior defensive back Eugene Ford, junior safety Khoury Bethley and sophomore linebacker Darius Muasau are just a few of the names that have emerged as leaders on defense. When it comes to handling the pandemic, the onus has been placed on the upperclassmen and more experienced members of the team to self-police and hold the team accountable.

Not being able to practice the last three days served as a reminder to the team that much more can be taken away if the amount of positive cases rises within the team.

The fate of the season depends on it.

“Honestly, that plays into TTH — it’s gonna be tougher than hell, honestly. There’s certain things we’re gonna have to sacrifice, there’s certain things that we’re just gonna have to give up, whether it’s partying or going out or all that stuff. We gotta eliminate that,” running back Miles Reed said. “There’s certain things that you can’t really control like you gotta go to the grocery store, you gotta do certain things but it’s about safety. Wearing a mask wherever you go, it’s about really social distancing, coming home and washing your hands, doing all that kind of stuff. We just gotta know the right things to do and the right situations to put ourselves in so I think if we can do that, we can stay healthy and we can compete for something really meaningful.”

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