Petersburg PORTA football lost 3 games to COVID. The team is excited to be back

Bill Welt
State Journal-Register

PETERSBURG — Petersburg PORTA High School football coach Lonnie McAnally can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

The Bluejays will make their season debut at Athens at 7 p.m. Friday after forfeiting their first three contests due to COVID-19.

"We're ecstatic, to say the least, about being able to play Friday night," McAnally said.

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PORTA, which begins the season 0-3 due to the forfeits, has waited for more than a month ever since practices officially started on Aug. 9.

"We are ready," McAnally said. "We got our guys back and can't wait to be under the lights."

'Senior curse'

Colby Flanders

Almost all of McAnally's 46 players will be available. However, senior quarterback Colby Flanders will not be among them due to a shoulder injury during practice. He is waiting on an MRI and if cleared will move to running back. He hopes to play as soon as next week at New Berlin.

Flanders said his older brothers, Caden and Caleb, also missed their senior year due to ACL injuries.

"I think there's a senior curse on us," Flanders joked.

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Flanders has continued to support his teammates despite the setback.

"Just trying to keep their hopes up, keep talking and keep saying we're in this," Flanders said. "It's been rough for us the past four weeks and hopefully we get out there.

"We're definitely ready. They're all pumped up. I'm pumped up for them just to see them play. They've been working their tails off."

Flanders said he is willing to help the team in any way possible, including at running back.

"I think it will be good," Flanders said of the position change. "I haven't had much experience running the ball, but I'm fast and I'm strong, so I can handle it."

Sticking together

Bryson Schachtsiek

Sophomore quarterback Bryson Schachtsiek will start in Flanders' place and feels just fine running the Bluejays' wishbone-style offense.

"I've been here every day," Schachtsiek said. "I try to get here on time, and I try to lead the team. When coach told me I was getting the starting spot, it really kind of made me nervous at first. But I actually think now I'm going to do pretty well."

Schachtsiek said he has embraced his team-like family since freshman year.

"Like I said, we're a family, so you've got to stick with the family," Schachtsiek said. "Just because all of that stuff has happened, it doesn't mean you can just quit and leave."

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If there's one positive that can be gleaned from PORTA's experience, it's resilience.

"All we can do,"  Flanders said, "is keep pushing and building ourselves up and be ready when we do get the opportunity to play."

Contact Bill Welt: bill.wet@sj-r.com, Twitter.com/BillWelt.