Capital City navigated its way through two-thirds of its regular-season schedule before COVID-19 stopped the Cavaliers from competing on the field.
Despite its suspended state due to virus concerns, the fledgling program is trying to move forward with preparation — all while keeping safety as the No. 1 priority.
"We're focused on our players' safety and their families," Capital City coach Shannon Jolley said. "This gives us an opportunity to create space, make sure we're doing our due diligence, and not offering the virus a chance to spread any more than it already has."
Capital City's football program is in a suspended state until Monday, Oct. 19, due to COVID-19 concerns. Its Central Missouri Activities Conference road game originally scheduled for tonight against Sedalia Smith-Cotton (0-5, 0-3 CMAC), along with its non-conference road game against Class 4 No. 8 Winnetonka (6-0) originally scheduled for Oct. 16, have been canceled.
If the Cavaliers (0-6, 0-5 CMAC) do indeed resume operations Oct. 19, Jolley said the program is planning to schedule two lower-level games and play the Week 9 varsity home game against Kirksville (4-2).
"I think every contest and practice we've had thus far has been crucial," Jolley said. "The lack of a senior class — not just from a talent standpoint, but from a leadership standpoint — has been challenging. Our younger guys don't have seniors to look up to and model their intensity and behavior.
"I'm confident our kids are going to grow, but at the same time, we can't just assume that in one year we'll have seniors and everything will fix itself. Everything we do on and off the field will continue to be imperative for us to continue moving forward so we can step up to a higher level of play next year."
In order to keep moving forward, Capital City plans to conduct virtual practices next week.
"This is all so new, so we're trying to come up with a model that works for our kids and the coaching staff," Jolley said. "We'll come up with a Zoom or Google Meet to keep our kids engaged. We're going to focus more internally on our structure offensively and defensively than any opponent."
Offensively, the Cavaliers have been a balanced wing-T rushing attack this season. The team is averaging 5.33 yards per carry (255 rushes for 1,360 yards). Burly sophomore Hurley Jacobs has a team-high 80 carries, just one more than junior teammates Ethan Wood and Ian Nelson.
Jacobs also leads the team in touchdowns (6) and has racked up 316 yards on the ground.
Wood still has the team lead in rushing yards (425) despite being held to seven yards in Week 5 against Jefferson City and missing last week's game against Helias. He rushed for a season-high 179 yards and three touchdowns in Week 4 against Rock Bridge — a game in which the Cavaliers accumulated 538 total yards of offense.
Nelson has 402 yards and two scores on the ground this season. He scored Capital City's lone touchdown last week — a 24-yard catch and run late in the fourth quarter.
The quarterback position has been a bit of a revolving door situation. Junior Kaden Dassrath started the first two games, then was relieved by classmate Taggert Bodenstab in Weeks 3, 4 and 5. However, sophomore Hayden Carroll entered in relief of Bodenstab against Jefferson City and made his first start against Helias.
"I was prepared to come in against JC, but I didn't expect to get as much playing time as I did," Carroll said. "It was a real eye-opener for me. So once we hit Helias, I knew I needed to step up my play."
Carroll missed on his first three throws against the Crusaders, but completed both of his second-half attempts to Nelson.
"I thought Hayden played a pretty good game," Capital City quarterbacks coach David Austin said. "He took care of the football and really took charge in the second half. He worked hard the week before and had a look of confidence in his eyes."
The Cavaliers are still minus-6 in turnover margin this season, but they won the turnover battle for the first time last week against Helias.
Defensively, Capital City is allowing 51.5 points per game. Opposing offenses have averaged almost 11 yards per carry (136 rushes for 1,494 yards) against the Cavaliers this season.
Instead of playing Capital City today, Smith-Cotton will play Saturday at Battle. Kickoff in Columbia is scheduled for noon.
Smith-Cotton and Battle were originally scheduled to play in Week 6, but that game was canceled due to coronavirus concerns within the Tigers program. The Spartans were originally scheduled to host Rock Bridge today, but Columbia Public School officials canceled the game due to COVID-19 concerns within the Bruins program.
Smith-Cotton had its varsity and JV seasons paused last week after one player tested positive for the virus. As a result, 31 players and coaches were forced to quarantine for 14 days.
The Tigers were without a handful of players in their Week 4 game against Hickman due to quarantine protocols.