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Daily Journal
     August 11, 2021      #74-223 KDJ

Football, other fall sports return with official

By Mason Schweizer

When Bradley-Bourbonnais football coach and athletic director Mike Kohl pulled into the school parking lot at 6:30 Monday morning, he saw an August sight he hadn’t seen collectively in two years — all of the school’s fall sports getting ready for their first day of fall practice.

“Our swimmers were in the pool; the tennis and cross country kids were already out, and altogether we had probably 500 students on campus today, playing their fall sport,” Kohl said. “It feels good; it’s the right fit, and there’s an exciting energy at [Bradley-Bourbonnais] right now.”

Monday marked the official start date of the IHSA fall sports season. After COVID-19 postponed a handful of traditional fall sports such as football, girls volleyball and boys soccer to the spring last school year, this year marked somewhat of a return to normalcy, as all fall sports are slated to play full regular season schedules and postseasons.

Bishop McNamara football player Colton Provost said after having such a wild sports season last year — one that included multi-sport athletes jumping from one sport to another before seasons even ended — this fall has felt more natural for the body and mind.

“It feels great to be back and be conditioned,” Provost said. “It just puts me in a happy mindset and gets me ready for the season.”

Provost is one of several Fighting Irish seniors preparing for a final season as a golden-domer during head coach Rich Zinanni’s 47th and final season patrolling the Irish sidelines.

But that’s something Zinanni is trying not to pay much attention to as he worked to rally his troops to prepare for the task at hand: reaching the IHSA State Championship in Dekalb.

“I try not to think about it being my last year; I try to think about it being a good year with these kids,” Zinanni said. “I really like these kids and the seniors; their work ethic is really good.”

Kankakee coach Derek Hart and company kicked off the season Monday with several holes to fill from last spring’s senior-heavy team that finished 4-2. Although Hart sees oodles of talent at his disposal, he said having a late start this summer after the prolonged sports season last school year is something his young team will have to work past.

“It’s tough, especially when you’re young,” Hart said. “We have a lot of spots to fill, so we have to work through that, and we didn’t have a whole offseason to work through it.

“It does feel like we were just out here, but it’s different. It feels normal again, and it’s good to be back.”

At Bradley-Bourbonnais, Kohl has tons of juniors and seniors — particularly returning senior quarterback Caige Williams and almost all of his weapons — returning. Wide receiver Neal May said he, Williams and their teammates spent plenty of time during the summer working out and practicing, but the ambience was a little different with the season officially underway Monday.

“I was headed to the field every other day, working with these guys and just putting in work, staying in shape, building muscle, trying to keep my speed,” May said. “But it was really nice to be out here underneath the lights. We connected with these guys; the energy was great, and I’m excited.”

Kohl, who was named the school’s athletic director in the middle of the 2019-20 school year, has yet to see a normal, full prep calendar since taking over the role, something he’s excited to see this year.

“It’s definitely a challenge, and I’m anxious to see how it goes ...” Kohl said. “I have a great assistant athletic director in Ken Akerman and a great assistant in Kelly VandenHout, and we’re just really excited to get this fall going as normal as possible.”

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