September 4, 2009 8:59:00 AM
Coaches can prepare for spread offenses or dart-quick running backs.
They also can devise schemes to frustrate even the strongest pass rush.
But New Hope High School football coach Michael Bradley discovered another opponent this week that is even tougher: Sickness.
The Trojans (1-0) had 24 players miss practice at some point this week as they prepared to take on Amory (0-2) at 7:30 tonight.
The flu bug that is affecting the state played a role in more than 100 students being absent Thursday from New Hope High.
The football team, like many across the state, wasn''t spared -- and neither was the coaching staff.
Bradley said he felt "sick as a dog" Thursday, and at least two of his assistant coaches were ill.
"I have been coaching 18 years and I have never seen anything like it," Bradley said. "I have had players miss practice because of sickness, but I have never had something like this be team wide."
Bradley said the Trojans took precautions and fumigated the locker room, washed down the water coolers every day with Clorox, and used cups instead of water bottles to keep the players hydrated.
Still, he said the close quarters that teams as large as football squads occupy make it difficult to prevent sickness from affecting only a handful of players.
Bradley said the illnesses hindered the implementation of any kind of game plan for the Panthers, who beat the Trojans 23-20 last year.
New Hope overcame the loss and advanced to the third round of the Class 4A North Half State playoffs before losing to eventual state champion Noxubee County.
The Trojans kicked off the 2009 season in stylish fashion last week with a 28-17 victory against Tupelo.
Bradley isn''t sure how well the Trojans will be able to build on that victory considering at least five players who see key minutes won''t be in action tonight. He said "most of" the team''s starters who were ill this week will play, but it doesn''t mean he feels good about his team''s level or preparation for a tradition-rich opponent that he knows is eager to shake off the memories of a 49-7 loss last week to Itawamba AHS.
"I am just remembering the Serenity Prayer. That''s all I can do," Bradley said. "I would love to throw up my hands in the air, but that wouldn''t do any good. We are going to have to play the hand that we have been dealt."
Bradley said sophomore Todd Harris won''t play tonight and that junior lineman Mike Love and junior Curtis Shirley are "doubtful."
Bradley did receive some good news Thursday. While he was talking to members of the media, he took a phone call from one of his offensive linemen who said he would be ready to go tonight.
The news gave Bradley a brief moment of respite from what has been one of the most trying weeks in his coaching career.
"It has been piecemeal. That is the only way to describe it," Bradley said of the implementation of a game plan. "We have tried to work with the ones that have been here when they were here, but we haven''t done any team stuff all week long.
"It is going to be interesting. I''ve got two choices. I can laugh or I can cry, and I am choosing to laugh because crying isn''t going to make me feel any better. I think our guys will step up and play as well as they can under the circumstances."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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