CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - Spring football practice for the St. Lawrence Saints is usually a time to get a head start on the upcoming college football season.
This year, due to COVID-19, that wasn’t the case for the Saints. They were only able to get a handful of practices in, like most other college football programs around the country.
“It was definitely a change-up for us. We normally have 15 practices with our team and we were only able to get 3 in just because. And that normally is a time that you can really see some of the younger guys that you didn’t get a chance to see, but we know what’s going on around us with a world pandemic, we were lucky enough just to get our 3 practices in,” said Saints Football coach Dan Puckhaber.
Heading into the summer, there is also a great deal of uncertainty surrounding when and if Saints players will be allowed to return to campus to begin practicing for the upcoming season in August.
Puckhaber says both he and his staff are trying not to let that affect their planning and are doing their best to stay on the same path as they would during a normal season.
“I think that the biggest thing is we just try to schedule for what we do know. Don’t chase the unknowns, don’t let it stress you out, don’t let it really get at ya because you know there’s a pretty good chance that we don’t get a chance to play football this fall. So for us, it’s- we just look at it like anything else we’re planning for an August 10th start date, and I have that schedule in place, I have my camp schedule set up, we have our installs done with the coaches and then once I hear differently just like everybody else, just like you ask anybody else in this situation, when there’s a change you’ve gotta fall in line and make it work,” said Puckhaber.
Another issue Puckhaber may be facing is getting his starting quarterback back to campus.
Junior quarterback Tyler Grochot, who set records for pass attempts, completions, passing yards and passing yards a game, is a native of Ottawa. And with the current border restrictions in place, it’s unknown if Grochot will be available to play for the Saints this season.
“I do believe that- I’m holding out hope that he’ll be able to be here and if he’s not, if he can’t come across the border, or that is not something happening that we are having our season like we are hoping to, there are other guys on the roster that are just gonna have to pick up the slack. He’s special, he’s pretty good," said Puckhaber.
For Puckhaber, social distancing and the precautions that could be in place for the upcoming football season during this pandemic has taken on added meaning.
“You know, I’m someone that is going through chemo treatments right now, so I have a reduced immune system. So I’m one of those guys that’s like, I might be coaching from a booth this year. Since 2009, I’ve been battling Multiple Myeloma. I had a couple transplants then and when I came up to St. Lawrence in 2010, I was post my 2 transplants and it was stagnant. There’s no cure for what I have, so then it came back- I just started my 19th month of chemo treatments once a week and my guys know it, and so like when this all hit, you know, I was able to talk to them, talk to my team as a cancer patient and understand ‘hey, the things we’re gonna take in place are gonna try to protect patients like myself and I thank you for it.’” said Puckhaber.
The Saints are set to open the 2020 season on Friday, September 4th under lights at Leckonby Stadium, hosting Utica College.