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Holy Cross coach confident there will be a H.S. football season despite spike in SA virus cases

Mike Harrison has suspended Knights' strength and conditioning workouts until July 1 after an athlete in another sport tested positive for COVID-19.
Credit: David Flores / Kens5.com
Holy Cross coach Mike Harrison guided the Knights to a 3-0 sweep of the TAPPS Division II / District 4 championship last season.

SAN ANTONIO — Holy Cross football coach Mike Harrison was sitting in his back porch “drinking water, chilling out and doing as little as humanly possible” Saturday afternoon when his cell phone rang.

Harrison, who doubles as the Catholic private school’s athletic director, deserved a break after the week he had.

But Harrison would the last to feel sorry for himself after the Knights’ strength and conditioning workouts were suspended Wednesday for two weeks because an athlete – not a football player, by the way – tested positive for the coronavirus.

“There are people out there who have it a lot tougher week than me,” he said. “I’m still blessed.”

Harrison was tested for the deadly virus Wednesday after coming in contact with the Holy Cross athlete, who tested positive for COVID-19.

The athlete, Harrison said, has participated in the Knights’ strength and conditioning workouts since they began June 8.

“We found out after out workout Tuesday that a kid had tested positive, so we didn’t work out Wednesday,” Harrison said. “That’s when we shut it down. It was really going well. I don’t think the kid got sick at our camp.

“Good Lord, as much as we clean and as much as we’ve done to disinfect everything, I don’t think the kid got it at school. It’s just a matter of getting it somewhere else. There’s a lot of community spread going on right now. That’s what everybody is talking about.”

Harrison, who turns 57 on July 1, has been in self-quarantine since learning the identity of the infected athlete. He did not disclose what sport the athlete competes in.

Credit: David Flores / Kens5.com
Holy Cross coach Mike Harrison, talking to Amir Ali, is preparing for his 11th season as the Knights' head coach and 15th as athletic director.

“I can’t say,” he said. “Our administration has been adamant about keeping that private.”

Harrison said he expects to get his test results back late Saturday or sometime Sunday. He has no symptoms of the virus, he said.

“I feel fine,” Harrison said.

One other private school, Antonian, also has suspended its workouts after having one of its athletes test positive for COVID-19.

Despite the spike in COVID-19 cases in San Antonio since the start of June, Harrison remains confident that the Friday night lights will continue to shine brightly in 2020.

“We’re going to have a season,” he said. “I can’t tell you what that season is going to look like. I can’t tell you how many stops and starts there are going to be to it. Everybody talks about it. I firmly believe in my heart of hearts that we are going to have a season. I just believe it.”

Holy Cross shut down in mid-March after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. The closing of campuses effectively ended all sports activities for the remainder of the school year.

Holy Cross athletes hadn’t worked out at school since before spring break when they returned to campus June 8. Having his athletes back at the school was an emotional experience for Harrison, who is preparing for his 15th year as the Knights’ athletic director and 11th as football coach.

“I teared up when they came back,” Harrison said. “I missed those kids. It was just incredible to see them back at school. Even after our campus closed, our kids kept on learning. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so proud of our little community. Kids doing schoolwork. Teachers doing lesson plans. We had 97 or more percent of our kids taking online classes.

Credit: David Olmos / Special to KENS5.com
Holy Cross standout linebacker Kalijah Michael is gone, but the Knights are expected to be a district title contender again this season.

“We did virtual workouts all the time. They have been as good as gold and stronger than steel when it comes to being committed to the program. I’ve worked in a lot of places that talk about things. This is one place that’s all about caring. People reach out. It’s a commitment to each other like a family.”

Holy Cross competes in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, but Harrison said the school has followed the UIL protocol for its strength and conditioning workouts. The University Interscholastic League governs extracurricular activities for Texas public schools. TAPPS is the governing body for most of the state’s private schools.

“The only thing we’re doing different than the UIL is that instead of suspending just one group (that the infected athlete was in) and keeping your camp going, we kind of went the extra mile and said that if we had any positive test of anybody, staff or participant, we were going to suspend for two weeks. We wanted to do that for safety measures.”

For now, the Knights will return to working out on their own and staying in touch via Zoom conferences.

“We’ll continue to do virtual workouts through Zoom during this two-week span,” Harrison said. “It is what it is. We’ve done everything we’re supposed to do. We’ve deep cleaned everything. We have our athletic trainer on site, and our typical routine was basically after every kid came through, we sprayed down whatever equipment they would use.

“We would disinfect at the end of the day. We were doing overkill.”

Harrison said that 75 percent of Holy Cross’ workouts have been outside.

“The only thing we’ve done inside was squat and bench,” he said, referring to the weight-lifting exercises. “But one station was 20 feet from the other one.”

All coaches have worn masks throughout the workouts and athletes have worn masks when they’ve been indoors. Athletes are prohibited from showering at school or using the locker room. They also must provide their own water and water bottles.

Holy Cross opens its season at Boerne Geneva on Aug. 28. The Knights finished 6-4 overall and won the TAPPS Division II / District 4 title last year with a 3-0 record.

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