Last week, Hurricane Ian put a damper on the high school fall sports season, wreaking havoc across the Gulf Coast and forcing teams to stay away from practice fields.
This week, a few area schools made their return to their playing fields, while others remain in a holding pattern.
Sarasota Christian resumed its inaugural football season Monday night with a home game against Academy at the Lakes. The Blazers (3-3), who are playing eight-on-eight football in 2022, defeated the Wildcats 42-12. Freshman quarterback Ben Milliken threw for 381 yards and six touchdown passes, four of which went to freshman wide receiver Travis Miller (seven catches, 154 yards).
It wasn't the cleanest of performances from a precision standpoint; Sarasota Christian only had a couple weekend practices to get ready for the Wildcats after several days off after Hurricane Ian arrived. There was some rust to be knocked off. But Blazers coach Jacob Spenn said the team was just happy to be on the field.
"When our kids had the opportunity to come back to campus they were excited, whether it was for cleaning up the campus or practices at the end of last week," Spenn said. "They might not have been the most focused practices, but the students just wanted to be with their friends and get back to normal. We are blessed to be able to play games this week when so many others are not."
That is games, plural; the Blazers will hit the road to take on Lakeside Christian (3-2) on Friday. The Blazers will also be resuming their other fall sports programs this week.
Over at Cardinal Mooney, the volleyball program (8-6) restarted Cougars athletics with a home match against Bradenton Christian (12-3). The Cougars swept the Panthers 3-0. Senior Jordyn Byrd led the Cougars with 18 kills and 11 digs. Sophomore Riley Greene had 10 kills and five blocks and junior Helena Hebda had 43 assists. Like the Sarasota Christian football team, the Cougars did not have much of an opportunity to practice before the match. That did not appear to matter; Mooney won the first set 25-18 and never looked back.
Davis said there is some uncertainty in the team's schedule as some of its upcoming opponents have not resumed school or athletics since the hurricane.
No matter who the Cougars end up playing, the team wants to get in as many matches as it can before the postseason begins.
With its tough early-season schedule, the team feels prepared for whoever it faces, whenever it faces them, Davis said.
"We're looking forward to the district tournament in two weeks," Davis said ."Then the championship game if everything goes right. We'll be ready to make whatever adjustments are necessary (to get there)."
Mooney's other fall sports have also restarted this week. As of Tuesday, the Cougars' football team was looking for an opponent to play on Friday.
Not every area school is able to play right now.
Sarasota County Schools announced Tuesday that schools would reopen in phases. Booker High, Sarasota High and Riverview High are all scheduled to reopen Oct. 10. As of Oct. 4, there has not been an announcement stating if athletics in the county would restart at the same time.
Sarasota High football coach Brody Wiseman said his team (3-2) is scheduled to play at Venice High (2-2) on Oct. 14, the first Friday after schools reopen.
If the county allows the game to go on, Wiseman said, his team will play, despite not having practiced in nearly two weeks. Wiseman said the county, which likes to use blanket protocols for closings and openings, has not allowed athletic teams to practice in an official capacity and that he has not instructed his players to gather on their own, though some have voluntarily chosen to do so.
"The nice thing is we have kids who are committed," Wiseman said. "We have kids who are disciplined enough to go outside of what we do (as a team) and make sure they stay in shape and are at the best of their ability."
The Sailors did gather once to partake in a different activity. On Monday, more than 100 students from different Sailors athletic programs, including the football team, went to the Alta Vista neighborhood near the school to help residents clear any remaining debris from the hurricane.
Wiseman, who lives in the community, said the clean up was an opportunity for the school's athletes to socialize following the storm as well as gain perspective on how helping others can be a fulfilling endeavor.
"When you're growing up and you're a teenager, your life is centered around you," Wiseman said. "The nice thing about playing sports is it forces you to work with other people and hear about different experiences and different backgrounds. Any time kids can get in an environment where they have to help somebody, I think that's a great experience for them."