Underclassmen are training for next season, flipping tractor tires and fashioning weights from gallons of water. The sounds of fall have gone silent — the pompom verve of the cheerleaders, the brassy pep of the band.
“It feels empty,” said Meza, 45. “Even the traffic level feels low. It’s an eerie feeling walking the halls and there’s nobody there.”
At Rio Hondo High School, extracurricular activities will not be permitted until students return to classrooms, said Rocky James, 52, the football coach and athletic director. In-person schooling kept being pushed back, to next Monday or possibly into November. That would have left room for only two football games. So the season was shelved.
James said he might have expected dozens of calls of complaint. He got none.
“If they’re too scared to come to school, how is it fair to play football?” he said.
Only six offensive linemen were among the interested in playing at La Joya High.
“Some parents didn’t think it was safe,” said Reuben Farías, 54, La Joya’s head coach. “No vaccine.”
Farías understood. Over the summer, when he would normally have been preparing for the season, he instead found himself among the grieving. On July 18, his father, Ruben, died of a heart attack related to Covid-19. He was 83.
‘If I die today, I’m ready to go.’
Ruben Farías was a longtime coach, teacher, administrator and school board member. After retirement, he still attended all of his son’s games.
“It was hard, everything we went through,” Elva Farías said. “I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”
Two weeks after the funeral, when football was abandoned at Juarez-Lincoln High, Isabel Rocha, 42, felt a sense of relief. Her son, Ángel Portillo, 17, was to be a senior cornerback. Rocha felt bad he would miss his final season, but said she had not wanted him to play. Her father and an uncle had died of Covid-19. She feared that her son might catch the coronavirus and spread it to their extended family. Portillo said he understood and would not have played.
“I didn’t want to be the one to hurt my family just to play football,” he said. “Safety over sport. Family over anything.”
This content was originally published here.