Kaneland High School's Sam Pryor (left) practices with his teammates during football camp at the school on July 20.
Kaneland High School's Sam Pryor (left) practices with his teammates during football camp at the school on July 20. — Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com

MAPLE PARK – Jack McIntire has waited a long time for his senior football season.

He's doing everything he can to make it an impactful one.

McIntire, a rising senior running back and defensive back for Kaneland, gets up at 5 a.m. six days a week for his hour-long lifting session in his home gym. At night, he'll meet up with some teammates for conditioning work.

Kaneland's 35-10 loss to Lake Forest in the second round of the postseason last year is in part a driving force why.

"I think we have a good group of guys," McIntire said. "A lot of them are putting in work at home, which is good to see, because they want to have a good season. [We] left kind of a bad taste in our mouths last season [losing] the second game of the playoffs...I think all these guys have gotten a lot better, a lot stronger [and] faster."

Kaneland's football program as a whole is firmly up and running after a prolonged break due to the uncertainty of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The program began its football camp July 13. It meets four days a week from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. It has adopted a hybrid schedule, as freshman and sophomore level players are generally grouped together while juniors and seniors do the same.

One day, the freshmen and sophomores might work on offense and then flip to defense the following day. The upperclassmen mirror that schedule.

Kaneland did not start official conditioning work during the first phase of the IHSA's Return to Play guidelines earlier this summer. Current restrictions do not allow drills with physical contact and only groups of up to 50 are allowed – unless there is at least 30 feet of distance between groups outdoors only. Facial masks do not have to be worn outside, unless social distancing measures cannot be maintained.

The Knights are seeing positive participation across their program, as approximately 80 players have signed up for camp.

On a typical camp day, after temperature checks and the required COVID-19 symptom questions are completed, a warmup will commence.

Following a warmup, the players begin by breaking out into their respective position groups. Coaches spend ample time teaching base techniques without any contact.

Later, they may run parts of their playbook 'on air' – walking through them without a full offense or defense opposite of the line of scrimmage. Camp sessions generally conclude with plenty of running.

"The kids are getting a lot more mental preparation – maybe more so than the physical end of it – which, it could be good for us that we've had to slow down," Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said. "I think we're doing a lot more teaching and learning out on the field than we've ever done...I think our kids are learning our scheme maybe better than ever."

Despite the restrictions, Kaneland is making the best of the circumstances.

"It's not easy wearing a mask and running around," Kaneland rising senior lineman Sam Pryor said. "I's not easy, but we're making do. We're getting done what needs to get done and that's the important part."

Above all, Pryor sees a team "that is ready to go" for a potential season moving forward.

"I really do," Pryor said. "Especially for my class of 2021, our seniors [are] a very tight-knit group. We've been playing together for about 10 years almost. We're ready to go. This is our senior season and we're ready to make it count."