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Calumet football players organize rally as fall contact sports remain on hold

Calumet football players organize rally as fall contact sports remain on hold

Calumet football rally

Calumet football players, from left, Jacob Holifield, Jerell Johnson and CJ Cooper participated in a rally Thursday at Calumet to state their case as to why the Warriors should be able to resume football activities. Fall contact sports at Calumet have been suspended since Aug. 5.

CALUMET TWP. — Lake Ridge Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Johnson-Shirley made no guarantees about fall contact sports at Calumet.

"People are anxious about it, and I understand," Johnson-Shirley said. "I'm the No. 1 cheerleader, and I would love to see my kids play. But not at the cost of risking lives."

Lake Ridge students began the school year Wednesday via e-learning. However, volleyball and football at Calumet have been suspended since Aug. 5 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

"I'm going to tell you that as of (Friday), you know that our (previous) school board meeting that spoke on this, that they canceled fall sports," Johnson-Shirley said. "My board meets on Sept. 14, and I'm sure they will have a discussion about what the next steps will be, but until then it is still canceled until the board meets again to discuss it.

"I'm not telling you that they're going to decide one way or another. It's already been decided about fall (contact) sports. However, because of the noise, I'm sure the board will revisit it, but I'm not sure what their decisions will be."

Calumet has already missed its first three football games of the season, and its Week 4 matchup with Whiting was canceled when the School City of Whiting pulled the plug on fall sports Aug. 10.

Warriors running back CJ Cooper and his teammates are doing everything they can to get back on the field sooner rather than later, even if that means taking matters into their own hands.

On Thursday, a group of players and their parents organized a rally at Calumet to show the school board that they haven't given up on the 2020 season.

Since this is Cooper's final prep campaign, he explained that this year means a lot to him in more ways than one. After coming up just short of the first sectional championship in program history last season, Cooper believes the Warriors could contend for a sectional title once again. But aside from making a statement in the playoffs, more than anything, he doesn't want this year to mark the end of his career.

"A lot of my teammates are seniors and so am I, and we have college aspirations," Cooper said. "We have (college) coaches talking to us, but it kind of shuts off when we tell them we're suspended or we're not playing right now. Then they're like, 'Why are you guys suspended and other teams in Indiana aren't suspended?'"

Currently, there are over a dozen high schools in Lake County playing football, including Highland and Griffith. The Trojans opened their season at home against Crown Point in Week 2, while the Panthers started their campaign Friday at Hobart in Week 3.

Fellow senior Jerell Johnson, who also plays basketball, attended Thursday's demonstration, too. Last season was his first as a starter, and after shining as a wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner, he began to receive interest from a number of different colleges. With one more year under his belt, Johnson is certain that he could earn a scholarship and further his education and career.

As the Warriors await a decision, Johnson and Cooper said their team has continued practicing together, even without their coaches. Both seniors added that the players only hangout with each other and have taken social distancing and other COVID-19 recommendations very seriously.

"I know safety is the first priority. That's priority No. 1, which I understand," Johnson said. "But I feel like we can go out there and play just like other schools are and still be safe. At this point, I don't even care if we have fans. I just want to play."

Calumet football coach Rick Good did not participate in his players' rally, but he commended them for peacefully stating their case to restart team activities. If the Warriors are not permitted to resume practice Monday, Good said they wouldn't be able to meet the IHSAA's 10-practice rule, which would ultimately make them miss their Week 5 game at South Central.

No one in the program has tested positive for coronavirus, according to Good.

"As far as I know and as far as I've been told, we are not canceled," Good said. "... I fully envision and hope to continue this season and have the kids out there. We're just waiting on the administration to give their stance and give their recommendation, and we'll take it from there."

Gallery: South Central at Calumet football

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Lake County Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.

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