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Meridian High School's Jonathan Vaughn carries the ball during the Wildcats' 2020 home game against Pearl.

For the first time in his head coaching tenure at Meridian High School, John Douglass experienced a summer of normalcy.

His hiring came late during summer workouts in 2019, and his 2020 summer workouts had the added responsibilities of COVID-19 restrictions, which forced them to rework how they trained their players ahead of the season.

Now, Douglass said he’s enjoyed having a fairly routine 2021 and hopes it pays off on the field this fall.

“My first year it was the end of June before I came on board, then we had Fourth of July and dead week, so for me it was only a three- to four-week summer,” Douglass said. “Last year, we were obviously dealing with the pandemic and all of the other issues. Backing up even further, it was nice to have a spring. This was my time to have spring practices since being head coach at Meridian High School, so all the normalcy is nice, and I know the coaches are much more comfortable in the type of setting we had this summer as far as kids doing agilities outside, lifting inside and then rotating and spending a little time offensively or defensively afterward.”

Junior receiver/cornerback/linebacker Quindarrius Jones also said he’s liked having a much less hectic summer and thinks the normalcy will be good for the team in the fall.

“We get to do more now than what it was like when COVID was (first) happening,” Jones said. “Things have been going pretty well. I really think we have a great team this year, and we can make something happen with the players we have and with the coaching staff.”

Douglass said he knows there are still COVID-19 issues with spiking cases due in part to the Delta variant, but he said the summer has been a productive one in the weight room and on the field thanks in part to more freedom with how workouts are structured, and the team still plans to take precautions.

“We’ve gotten a lot of stuff accomplished and are just looking to get ready to roll,” Douglass said. “We’re still checking temperatures and things like that when we come into the building, and the school district just announced we’re still going to wear masks indoors.”

In addition, Douglass said he and the other coaches have been stressing the importance of getting vaccinated to the players not just to protect themselves, but also their teammates.

“Obviously it’s not mandatory or anything like that, but we’re really encouraging them to get vaccinated,” Douglass said. “Probably not quite half of our guys are vaccinated, and I know some of them are thinking about it, and we’re just saying, ‘Look, I know it’s a personal decision for you and your family, and we’re just laying out the situation as far as what’s going to happen if you don’t get it or you do. If you’re comfortable with it, go get it, because it’ll help you.”

Specifically, an unvaccinated person on the team who comes in contact with a COVID-positive individual would force quarantines like last year, whereas an asymptomatic vaccinated player wouldn’t force a quarantine even if they were around someone who was COVID positive.

“It kind of does (make me want the vaccine) because it can affect the team,” Jones said. “Plus, if half the team doesn’t get vaccinated, then half the team wouldn’t be able to play that Friday.”

Hopefully no quarantines happen this fall, and Jones said he and his teammates are entering the fall with high expectations.

“If everything goes right I think we can make it to the championship,” Jones said. “With what’s been going on and how Coach has been teaching us to do this and that, I really have faith in our team this year.”

SCHEDULE

Aug. 28 — Laurel

Sept. 3 — at NE Lauderdale

Sept. 10 — at West Lauderdale

Sept. 17 — at Hattiesburg

Sept. 24 — Northwest Rankin

Oct. 1 — at Pearl

Oct. 8 — Oak Grove

Oct. 15 — at Brandon

Oct. 22 — at Petal

Oct. 29 — Terry

Nov. 5 — Warren Central

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