Raq Lawson was at the gym when the news broke on Monday.
The Virginia High School League had approved a model for the return of high school sports, delaying the start of fall sports--football included--until next February amid continuing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawson, a rising junior at Eastern View who is one of the Cyclones’ top players, shook off the news as quickly as a would-be tackler.
“My reaction to [the announcement] wasn’t negative or positive,” he said. “I just think it gives everyone more time to get better.”
A first-team all-Battlefield District selection at running back after racking up 942 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, Lawson made it clear that he’s more focused on spending his time improving rather than worrying about things he can’t control.
“I’m pretty sure everyone is angry about the situation, but that should also bring out the best in everyone,” he added. “This extra time on our hands is going to separate those of us who put in the work from the ones that just show up and expect to compete.”
Lawson’s attitude is shared by many players in the area, especially those who only have a year of eligibility left and need one more high school campaign to (hopefully) make colleges take notice of them.
Elijah Hoskin, a rising senior teammate of Lawson’s at Eastern View, currently has offers from Division III Hampden-Sydney College and the NAIA’s Culver-Stockton (Mo.) College. However, a number of Division I and II schools have shown interest in the two-way lineman.
“It sucks that the season is delayed, but at least we get to have a season,” said Hoskin, who was an all-Region 4B honoree on both the offensive and defensive lines a year ago. “I feel like I need one more season of [high school football] to show the schools that are interested in me that I’ve fixed the things they told me I needed to fix.”
Like Hoskin, Culpeper’s Riley Harrison is also drawing interest from several colleges. Harrison was a second-team all-Region 4C pick at linebacker in 2019 after collecting 111 tackles, two sacks, a pair of forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown.
“A situation like this makes me realize that you really should play every single second like it’s your last,” Harrison said. “It really stinks for something like this to happen in my senior season, but I’m just looking forward to playing sometime soon.”
“I don’t even care that the season will be in 2021,” said Joseph Holland, Harrison’s classmate and fellow member of the Blue Devils’ linebacking corps. “I’m just grateful we’ll have an opportunity to show all the work we’ve put in, however late that may be.”
However, over at Liberty, the VHSL’s decision left at least one player in a state of uncertainty.
“We all have dreams of going somewhere to play football, no matter where it’s at,” said Dylan Bailey, the Eagles’ senior quarterback. “The delay of the season puts a lot of seniors who are not yet committed [to college] or without any offers in a bad situation.”
Bailey set single-season school records with 2,377 passing yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior, leading Liberty to its first undefeated regular season since 2004. He was rewarded with second-team all-Northwestern District accolades for his efforts, and said he’s been working harder than ever since then to garner attention from colleges.
“In times like this, it makes football players like me worried about if there’s going to even be a next step,” he said. “So yeah, honestly, the situation sucks and it’s really upsetting.”