Hennesy says he’ll do what it takes to play football

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

Coach Matt Hennesy is willing to change his mind about details to achieve his objective.

“I was the biggest one against these things,” he said the evening of Aug. 18, in remarks to a dinner crowd at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile Event Center in Pawhuska.

The dinner was a social occasion preparatory to The Pioneer Woman Classic preseason football scrimmage event on Friday, and his audience consisted of fellow football coaches and their wives, game officials, reporters and other football fans. He was referring to the wearing of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Hennesy, like many of his fellow Americans, had strong feelings. The wearing of masks has been a source of public arguments in the United States, with large numbers of people taking both the pro and con sides of the dispute.

He made the same confession last Thursday night, during a Meet The Huskies Night event at the stadium. In each instance, the Pawhuska head football coach explained that he is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his players safe and have a full football season, including playoffs.

“I’ll wear a mask all night long if they’ll let us play football,” Hennesy told his audience at Meet The Huskies Night. “I’ll wear a dress. I don’t care. I just want to play football.”

He also explained at the Aug. 18 dinner that he wants to look back years from now and have the satisfaction of knowing that Oklahoma turned out to be a state where people took account of the facts and made necessary adjustments, and had a football season in 2020.

High school football players are not wearing masks during games, but they are wearing them at Pawhuska during periods when they are enclosed together in spaces such as locker rooms and vehicles. Additionally, Pawhuska students, teachers and administrators are wearing masks during school days.

“Let’s make sure we’re being the leader in our schools,” Hennesy said to his fellow coaches, encouraging them to lead the way in convincing educators and students to exercise caution regarding the novel coronavirus that has bedeviled American society the past half-year.

Hennesy told the Journal-Capital he thought local physician Cameron Rumsey had done a good job of explaining to Pawhuska teachers how the virus spreads and how to work to contain it. Hennesy added that he had paid close attention to news reports about school districts that reopened, but did not use masks as a virus containment tool and subsequently had problems.

Football referee Todd Ragsdale, of the Greater Tulsa Officials Association, echoed what Hennesy said about safety during his remarks at the Aug. 18 dinner. Ragsdale noted that numerous changes had been planned for the 2020 football season, but game officials scaled back what they were intending to do and honed in specifically on the issue of player safety.

“The main goal of high school football is the safety of the player,” Ragsdale said, explaining he has worked 12 hours a day since March with a lot of other people to attempt to make high school football safer this season, as the fight against the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 continue. One of the changes that fans will likely notice is that coin toss ceremonies before games will be limited to one player from each team, rather than four captains from each team, he said.

In addition to stressing safety, Hennesy told parents attending Meet The Huskies Night that he expects every one of his players to take the ACT college entrance exam on Oct. 6. He said that he wants his players to take the exam as many times as possible, so he will be better able to help them get into college.