by Rick Lanier
for the Opelika Observer

At first glance things looked pretty normal. It was Friday night, the Hornet faithful were filing in to Ram stadium to watch Beauregard open their 2020 football season while the players were on the field stretching.

After a closer look, however, the effects of the new protocols and mandated changes of Alabama’s COVID-19 “Safer at Home” policy were easy to recognize. There were no smells of hamburgers and hotdogs cooking on a grill, nor the aroma of freshly popped popcorn in the air. The Hornet marching band was absent from the student section and members from different households were sitting at least six feet from each other and wearing face coverings.

Since March, every high school in America has been dealing with the questions and uncertainties of a pandemic. Is it safe to bring students and teachers back? How do we conduct virtual classes? Can we allow high school sport to go forward? So many questions, some unanswered still.

After last year’s 1–9 season, Beauregard’s coaching staff was looking for answers too. Would the experience of playing so many freshmen and sophomores last year produce dividends this year? Who would emerge as leaders from the adversities of a young football team, including last year’s 27-0 shutout loss to the Rams? What impact, if any, did the new COVID-19 protocols have on team preparation?

Initially, both sides of the Hornets’ effort looked promising. Valley took the opening kick-off and set up shop on their own 31 yard line. Beauregard’s first defensive stand was impressive and the unit appeared ready for the challenge ahead, swarming the Rams and forcing a punt after three plays. The Hornets offense looked to be on track as well, but their initial drive stalled after five plays.

Unfortunately, what followed, on both sides of the ball, did nothing to answer questions. 21-0 Valley after the first quarter of play. 35-0 at the half. 42-0 after three, and finally, after the outcome of the game was well determined, Beauregard put together two scoring drives that revealed a small glimpse of what could be. In the end, the score was 49-13 Valley.

Beauregard’s offense couldn’t find its rhythm. Good plays nullified by penalty, good drives thwarted by turnovers, inconsistent play at key positions. Flashes of real good here and there, and by game’s end, the Hornets had managed 325 yards of total offense (172 passing/153 rushing), a good deal of which coming in the last four minutes of the game.

Defensively, the Hornets were gashed up front by Valley’s speed in the run game. There were bright spots; at times the defense swarmed to the ball and made plays, especially LB Trent Jones, who looks well equipped for the position (he also played RB on offense). The defensive backfield played well in defending the pass, but overall the Hornets searched for answers most of the night.

By all accounts, it was not the night Beauregard was hoping for. Was it as simple as first game jitters and missed opportunities on the road? Hopefully. Could it have been the lingering effects from new protocols and routines? Maybe. Are there more questions that need to be answered? For sure. Happy that Friday night football, albeit a different version, is back? Definitely!

Beauregard plays its home opener next week as they take on the Tigers of Handley High School (Roanoke) on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. Hornet stadium is located at 7343 Ala. Highway 51, Opelika, Alabama 36804. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CST.