CAMDEN — High school athletes have gotten used to dealing with the COVID pandemic by now.
So having games postponed because opponents have some COVID-related issues is hardly unusual.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing.
The Caesar Rodney High’s boys’ basketball team was supposed to be playing its first two games of the season this week. Instead, the Riders will just keep practicing after both games were moved to later in the season.
“I really wanted to play,” said senior Jeremiah Lofland. “I was looking forward to it. But, you know, I’m still ready.
“I kind of get used to it. I’ve been preparing myself mentally and physically in case something like that happens. There’s really not much you can do.”
Some winter sports teams will be opening their seasons on Wednesday. Everyone involved, from players to coaches to spectators, is still required to wear masks for indoor events.
The Riders are now slated to open their season by hosting Milford next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in a Henlopen North matchup. It’s one of only three contests CR has scheduled before Dec. 28.
Delayed or not, though, the Riders will be excited to get their season started. Eight of their 13 players are seniors, including three returning starters and a couple promising newcomers.
“This group is pretty diverse,” said senior Craig Williams. “We’ve got a little bit of everything around this team. We’ve got everything we need. ... I feel like we have the same idea every year — get as far as we can with the kids we’ve got.”
A year after going 10-5 in a schedule limited by the pandemic, the Riders still have plenty of motivation over how their season ended. CR fell to Dickinson, 62-58, in the second round of the DIAA state tournament in a contest that could have gone either way.
“As a team, I feel like we had certain skills that we needed to get past that game,” said senior Trey Voshell. “Things just didn’t fall together.”
“I think about it every once in a while,” said Lofland. “But I try not to dwell on the past and just look forward to the future.”
The Riders’ returning starters include juniors Malachi Brinkley and Anthony Aglio along with Voshell.
The most notable addition to the squad is senior Messiah Antwi, who stands 6-foot-8 and moved to the school district from New Jersey. CR also picked up senior Mekhi Tribbett, who went to CR when he was young and recently moved back from Philadelphia.
Even with the new players, coach Frank Victory said this team seems to already have a certain bond.
“There’s great chemistry,” he said. “They spent a lot of time together this summer and fall, playing a lot of basketball. I have to get them out of the gym — they want to be in the gym all the time. They want to get better.
“The couple kids that have transferred in have fit right in because it’s a good group of kids that we have here already. And they could feel that as soon as they got here. They took them right in. It’s like they’ve been here all along.”
“They fit in actually really well with the whole system and program,” said Lofland. “I got here myself last year so I’m kind of still new to it. But all the pieces are fitting together.”
After playing a pair of games in Salisbury’s Governor’s Challenge on Dec. 28-29, the Riders will play their last 15 regular-season games between Jan. 4 and Feb. 21. Of course, there’s always a chance that the schedule will be rearranged along the way for any number of reasons.
But Victory said student-athletes have learned to adapt to changing scenarios.
“I think it’s teaching us a lot about life,” he said. “You have to be flexible, you have to be willing to adapt to change and be like, ‘OK, it didn’t happen today, but it’s going to happen.’
“We just have to continue to put in the work and control the ‘controllables’ for us. For us it’s about getting better every day that we step on the floor. ... I really believe that our kids are mature enough to handle the situation. Kids are willing to do whatever they have to do to be able to play ... because they want to play the game that they love.”