BELTON — Like everybody in this area, the primary focus of Mary Hardin-Baylor head coach Pete Fredenburg was the safety of his family and team last week, when football took a backseat to the act of survival during the brutal winter storm.
“We were all concerned with the well-being of all our team and coaches. We stayed on the phone quite a bit, checking on people,” he said Monday. “When the school lost its power, guys had to go different places. That means more concern for guys being exposed to people who have (COVID-19). Hopefully, we’ll come out of it OK.”
Because of an open date in the schedule and the postponement of last week’s game, three weeks will have past between UMHB’s season debut and its home opener at noon Saturday against Southwestern.
That would have been ample time for the Crusaders (1-0) to fix the few things that slowed them in a 41-0 victory over Belhaven on Feb. 6, but the weather and subsequent power outages robbed UMHB of practice time.
“We lost eight opportunities to practice because of the weather. What next? This is crazy times, but our players have done an amazing job of staying focused,” Fredenburg said. “We worked out (Sunday). We weren’t able to get on the field, but we could lift weights and do some conditioning.
“I think we’re way behind in conditioning and the ability to play a full game. Then we test for COVID on Wednesday, and there’s the fear that could put us even farther behind.”
Despite all the uncertainty following the cancellation of the fall season because of the pandemic, the implementation of a plan to play a five-game American Southwest Conference spring season and finally the winter storm, Fredenburg believes his coaching staff can get comfortable with a somewhat routine work week.
“This really feels like a game week. We got all the video broken down and now we’re making the game plan. You feel like you’re in a game environment,” he said. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to play at home in front of our fans.”
Hosting the Pirates
The only game thus far for Southwestern (0-1) was a 28-17 loss to East Texas Baptist on Feb. 6, and the Pirates’ option-based offense presents the Crusaders with a special set of problems after limited practice time.
“Southwestern’s offense and defense are a little bit outside of the mainstream compared to what we usually face. It creates an issue and makes us work harder to get everybody lined up correctly,” said Fredenburg, whose program won all three previous meetings with Southwestern. “Their team makes you think to make sure you’re lined up right, but you still have to play fast and do all the things that we want to do.”
The conference’s original plan for the spring season called for each team to play a four-game divisional schedule over a five-week span, with the winner of the East and West divisions squaring off in the sixth week in the ASC championship game.
Last week’s weather altered that time frame.
In the adjusted schedule, UMHB faces Southwestern on Saturday, visits East Texas Baptist on March 6, has a newly planned opened date the following week and hosts Louisiana College on March 20.
The conference title game is now scheduled for March 27.
All of the adjustments are forcing Fredenburg and his staff to form a practice schedule that maximizes the Crusaders’ opportunities to improve without going over the number of workouts allotted by the NCAA.
“We will make up those lost practice dates because the season has been extended,” Fredenburg said. “We just have to make sure we’re in the ballpark of what the NCAA has allowed us to have in terms of practice opportunities.”