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Lowell embraces the uniqueness of this football season




LOWELL – With rain on the brand new lawn at Lowells at Cawley Stadium Monday afternoon, the only indicators of a first day of training in late February rather than August were the cold weather clothing and the two-meter snowdrifts on the sidelines.

That sense of normalcy also seemed to be the energy of playing for a new head coach, despite the start of the most erratic football season in modern history.

Hired last March to take the helm after seven successful years at Salem (NH), Rob Pike already knows what it’s like to establish a culture and expectations in a new group of players.

He assured that regardless of the circumstances, those expectations are the same for improving every day and winning matches. Each of the approximately 78 players on Monday practiced under that mindset, while Pike and his staff coached them in the same way.

A preseason of just two weeks certainly presents challenges in teaching a new system to an entire Division 1 program, but COVID-19 has hit every program in the state with a sense of adversity.

High school football is high school football, Pike said. I’m sure everyone is just excited to be here. We just want to keep improving as individuals, become better footballers, and come together as a team and have some camaraderie, have some unity and play hard, Lowell football.

It may seem hard to believe that players came out as if it were any other preseason practice, but given the uncertainty of the season over the past four months, neither the opening day difference nor the shortened season does not violate their desire to to compete.

For Lowell, football training is more normal than any day of the past year, as classes are still remote.

Pike is optimistic that finally the ability to spend time together, along with regular competitiveness, is enough motivation to excel, despite the lack of state tournament plans. Ben Zaim, a senior defensive end who played all four years, agrees.

He admits that Pike can face adversity as he adapts to new faces that are usually hidden by masks. But even then, everyone is still committed to daily improvements.

Monday practice included all the regular components of normal preseason practice, and Pike coached as he’d known players their entire career.

It will certainly be different (but) we just have to stick together and make things happen, Zaim said. None of us really knew what to expect, not even the captains. But I think a lot of people are just reassured that football is back, everyone is happy to be here.

Zaim takes a positive look at the unique nature of the season for him and the rest of the seniors.

When this season comes to an end, we would also (almost) graduate, he said. It’s going to be pretty cool. We’re going to play football.

New coach or old, that will not change.

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