Pandemic Impact

2019 National Coach of the Year: COVID ‘threat is still out there’

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor

Dutch Fork High (S.C.) football coach Tom Knotts couldn’t have had a better 2019.

He led Dutch Fork to its fifth state championship — bringing his total state championship count to 12 between coaching jobs in North and South Carolina. At the conclusion of the season, he was named the 2019 National High School Football Coaches Association (NHSCA) National Football Coach of the Year.

Like so many coaches, Knotts hasn’t been as enamored with 2020 so far. His team finally opened the season last Friday night after a difficult summer and delayed start to the fall season. He hosted Senior Night for his players on the first game of the season to make sure his upperclassmen didn’t miss out on the ceremony if the season gets cancelled before its scheduled completion.

Knotts recently joined FNF Coaches for a Q&A.

What made you decide to host Senior Night so early in the season?

“I guess the fear that COVID would eliminate, pause or postpone the season. We went ahead with it since we knew we’d play on the first night. We recognized the seniors exactly the same way we always do.”

Did you take any extra precautions in terms of social distancing or mask-wearing?

“We attempted to. I don’t think we pulled it off very well. Most of the parents pulled their masks down for the pictures. The seniors come on to the field. We announced what they play, what their dreams and aspirations are, if they’re attending college, scholarship offers, those types of things. Then they take pictures. We attempted to have social distancing in the stands, but the students didn’t really adhere to it.”

Why do you think it’s so hard to adhere to those safety recommendations?

“Kids are ready to get out. Americans are ready to get out. But the threat is still there. We’re playing a dangerous game, but hopefully life goes on and football goes on.”

What is the status of school at Dutch Fork? Is it remote on in-person?

“We have a hybrid schedule, and a lot of people are not taking this seriously. On Friday, they announced we’ll transition to a full-time schedule. My estimation is everyone is acting like this is coming to an end. I’m not sure that’s the case. I’m hoping it doesn’t have a negative effect. We talk about a Dutch Fork bubble. I think the kids have done a good job, but we’re hoping that putting another 1,000 kids in the school won’t result in an outbreak.”

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk