After Wednesday’s practice last week, Rashawn Harvey had to tell his Kearney Catholic football team their first run-in of the season with the coronavirus had cost them a football game. Ogallala had received a positive test for the virus and canceled the game. Instead of a memorable road trip to rinse the season’s first loss a week prior from their palette, the Stars (2-1) now had a bye week.
The coaching staff gave the team Thursday off from practice and went through a film session Friday after school. After, the staff split up to go out around the area and watch a few games elsewhere.
Harvey went to Minden to do a little scouting in advance of this Friday’s meeting. A few of his assistant coaches went to watch future opponents, Adams Central (Oct. 9) and Cozad (Oct. 23).
Before they left the school Friday night, Harvey decided to check the locker room to make everything’s clean and in order.
“I noticed the back door of the locker room was open and all these bags were in the locker room. I thought all the boys had left,” he told me. “Well, I go out the backdoor and there’s about 20 guys on the field working on routes and doing 7-on-7.
“That was a great sign right there. We found out those seniors started talking to each other and said, ‘Hey let’s go out and throw the ball and work on our timing and everything.’ It was encouraging. They could have easily went home and did whatever they were gonna do, but they were out on the field, working on their craft.”
The Stars’ quarterback—senior and Nebraska commit Heinrich Haarberg—had been asked this offseason by the coaching staff to work on commanding the team in ways beyond just throwing guys open and steering the offense to touchdowns. Work on your leadership, Harvey asked of him.
Not that Haarberg wasn’t what you want from a quarterback, but just continue to grow. Take guys under your wing and help them.
Against St. Paul, in a 33-7 loss two weeks ago, a Star offense that had put up 100 points combined in its first two games sputtered. St. Paul was massive up front, and Kearney Catholic’s run game never really got going, but drops played a key role in the disappointing showing. On a handful of throws, Haarberg put the ball where it was needed, and when the catch wasn’t hauled in, you could tell frustration was starting to creep in.
He acknowledged in the days after there were some moments he would have liked to have had back.
Throughout practice during the run-up to Ogallala, before the game was called, Haarberg said he could tell his receivers were still a little off, a little in their heads.
It wasn’t a one-off thing, but two weeks in a row where dropped passes had cost Kearney Catholic points. Harvey credited three drops on the team’s opening three possessions against St. Paul as costing 21 points. And this is a veteran receiver group that’s made plenty of plays for Kearney Catholic throughout their careers.
“They’ve got to get their confidence back,” Harvey said. “They know they had a bad game, obviously, and we coached them up on it. We got on them a little bit. They’ve got to learn to respond. Just have thick skin and respond.
“We equate everything back to life. At times in life you get knocked down. What are you gonna choose to do? Stay down? Or are you gonna get back up?”
“I think overall this week they’ve had a better week of practice,” the head coach said.
Now, some of the issue has been out of anyone’s control, Harvey says. One player in particular started showing symptoms of… something… and the team collectively held it’s breath. “Guys were thinking the worst, that they were going to be out or they were going to be the reason we can’t play,” he said. But a COVID test came back negative—a sinus infection caused the panic—and once the player was back to practice Harvey noticed an exhale from his team.
Asked how he schematically can help a guy who’s doing everything right but just a little too in their heads, Harvey said there have been a few adjustments to route schemes in this week’s gameplan, a few changes to where guys are going to be.
“We’ve asked them to catch more balls in practice,” he said. “We’ve thrown more balls to them in practice. … Hopefully that helps those guys out.”
Sometimes, though, the coach can only do so much.
You need your leaders to come through.
Of Haarberg, Harvey said “he’s been more encouraging to those guys.”
Kearney Catholic travels to Minden on Friday. The offense will look to get back on track. If it does, maybe we can point to an unusual Friday afternoon when Haarberg and his receivers decided it was still going to be a workday.