By Rubin E. Grant
This was not the way Braden Glenn envisioned his senior year on the Vestavia Hills’ football team would begin, especially since it’s his first season as the Rebels’ starting quarterback.
But three weeks ago, Vestavia Hills suspended preseason practice for nearly two weeks and canceled their first two games of the season against traditional rivals Mountain Brook and Homewood because of a COVID-19 outbreak on the team. Head football coach Buddy Anderson was one of those infected.
The Rebels had played Mountain Brook each year since 1971 and played Homewood each year since 1972.
“I was pretty angry we weren’t able to play Mountain Brook, one of our rivals,” Glenn said. “I hate coach Anderson was one of those who got infected. I am glad he’s gotten better and the other players have recovered well, too.”
Anderson said it’s been tough overcoming the coronavirus and he hates not being able to play Mountain Brook and Homewood.
“I hate it for the kids and I hate it since it’s my last year and we didn’t get to play those two teams,” Anderson said. “This year is going to be very unique. We’re doing things I never thought we’d have to do, like providing water separately when we have a timeout.”
The Rebels returned to practice Aug. 21 and will play their first game at home against arch-rival Hoover on Friday at 7 p.m. in a Class 7A, Region 3 matchup.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster,” Glenn said. “We were getting ready to play Mountain Brook, then we had to cancel the game because of COVID.
“We came back on (Aug. 21) and our energy was off the charts. We were excited to get ready to play against some great competition. I am happy how the team has handled being thrown a curveball.”
Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge since the spring for schools throughout the state. Glenn was overjoyed when they were allowed to resume workouts in early June.
“We had been out of school since March and missed spring training,” he said. “When we started working out on June 8, it was very exciting getting back together as a team, especially for all the seniors, including myself.
“All summer we worked hard and followed the restrictions, and then we had to suspend practice.”
During the mid-August hiatus, Glenn found a way to stay sharp.
“I came up to the school with a couple of receivers and a couple of running backs, social distancing of course, and threw the ball,” Glenn said. “We wanted to stay in shape and get ready for Hoover.
“I am excited that we will finally get to play and we’re expecting to play the rest of the season. I’ve been quarantining myself, staying away from large gatherings because I really want to play my senior year.”
The Rebels will be at somewhat of a disadvantage when they take the field against the Bucs. Hoover is 2-0 with wins over Central-Phenix City (45-35) and Bessemer City (62-0).
“Hoover has been able to play two games and have some experience from playing,” Glenn said. “We’ve been working on our game plan and we had a scrimmage last week. I think we looked good. We had some small mistakes that I think we’ll get corrected.
“We’re ready to come out and go at it hard against Hoover.”
Anderson expects the game to be a sellout, but he said, “We’re only going to be at 50% capacity of the stadium because of the COVID restrictions. Every ticket has to be bought online.”
This will be the final season of Anderson’s lengthy career with the Rebels. The 70-year-old coach announced this summer he was retiring at the end of the 2020 campaign, his 43rd as the Rebels’ head coach. He is the winningest coach in state history with a 342-154 record.
“I’m glad I’m here for his last year,” Glenn said. “His retirement will be a big loss for the team, but I’m glad he was here for all four of my years in high school.”
Anderson’s final season will give the Rebels some extra motivation, coming off a 7-4 season in 2019.
“We made the playoffs last year for the first time in three years,” Glenn said. “We’re going to try to use the momentum of it being coach Anderson’s last year to do even better and show Vestavia has a great football program.”