High school sports return to Waterville and Mansfield this week with the Shockers football team kicking off their season Feb. 27 versus Entiat. Head coach Tayn Kendrick is excited to get things started. After a layoff from high school athletics that canceled sports from the beginning of last school year’s spring sports season until now, there is a lot of optimism mixed with an understanding this season will look a little different than we have been used to in the past.

Kendrick noted despite such a long layoff from athletics, his team has high expectations of themselves.

“We have heard from the players their goal is to develop a winning program. I am excited players are getting a chance to play a sport they enjoy and be active this school year, but the coaches want to help them reach that goal. I think my expectations are that we will be competitive, get better every week, and enjoy the opportunities we have,” he said.

The student-athletes are buying into joining a team that has high expectations of itself. Kendrick said that currently, the team has 19 players, which is noteworthy because for the first time under Kendrick’s tenure as the head coach of the football team, coaches are not having to stand in at positions and he is able to expect more of every player on the team. The team has will be relying on their seniors and juniors to provide leadership. The team has five seniors: Eli Van Lith, Carter Shafer, Xavier Tedder, Kody Angus, and Evan Simmons. Among a strong group of juniors are three players who are entering their third year of Shockers football: Jack Katovich, Braydon Murison.

Even with an experienced team, there will be some changes this season. With the football season being delayed until now, Waterville’s field is covered in snow leading to practices being held in Mansfield and uncertainty regarding where home games will be played.

“I think that is still being discussed by the AD’s but for now we are excited to get on a field. The Mansfield staff and community have been incredibly hospitable. Without their facilities, I am not sure what our options would be to begin the season,” Kendrick said.

Another notable difference will be that no fans will be allowed at the games in person due to COVID 19 restrictions. But the school is working on ways to stream the games to fans.

“I know for the first game it will be broadcast on KORE radio and I hope everyone is listening and rooting on their favorite Shocker! We are also looking into options to live stream games, but unfortunately, that is not set up yet,” Kendrick said.

The Shockers football season opener versus Entiat is scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27.