While virtual graduations are the norm for the Class of 2020, the classes of 2021 and further await — most with baited breath — when they get to go back to school, back to teachers, back to friends, back to band, back to cheerleading, back to school clubs and back to sports.
“This is torture for me and the kids. What has been done is amazing,” Arnold said. “I have a video made throughout the process and been taking pictures on my phone. So I have all this stuff, including a before and after video, and we had a Zoom meeting about a week ago and I left it up to the team if they wanted a virtual reveal or do it as a team when all this is over.
“This has been a two-year process since I got the job. Tony Vinson is the one who really spearheaded the project. This has been a long process and he has been there every step of the way. This is not as simple as a school board voting on it. He deserves all the credit. He’s the one who made it happen. He’s been there through all the bureaucracy paperwork. This was going to happen last summer and it got delayed.
“When January rolled around and we started having walkthroughs I felt it was close to being started. When I got the text that it was good to go, everyone around here was excited. The company came in and did a first-class job. It’s unbelievable and Tony Vinson has been great from start to finish.”
In addition to this new addition — so to speak — Arnold also is waiting to see the new additions to the football program with the yearly transfers and the Army’s plans, announced in February, to activate V Corps Headquarters by the fall with more than 600 additional soldiers.
“We’re real excited about that, too,” Arnold said. “They’ll start arriving in June. They were delayed a little bit because of the travel ban. We’re excited about the additions. We have a lot coming back, too. I hope we’ll be able to expand our team. We had almost 50 last year and hopefully we’ll be over that this year.
“At sometime, this summer is going to be here.”
Until then, like everything else, it’s a waiting game.
“We’re definitely in a total holding pattern,” Arnold said. “Obviously, everyone’s safety has to come first. When they give us the go-ahead, it’s gonna be awesome for everyone to get back together and show off the first-class facility we get to use.”
On the field, the Eagles have “12 to 15 key contributors” coming back, including Xzavian Salter-Zanders, Deondre Sparrow, Corey Brown, Jayden Thorpe, Novelle Francis and Kaden Dwyer.
“We have four of our five offensive linemen back and our whole backfield back,” Arnold said.
Salter-Zanders and Sparrow combined for 127 carries, 727 yards and three touchdowns. “We lost some good kids through graduation and PCS.”
Also lost via graduation are 18 of Fort Knox’s 22 touchdowns during last season’s 3-8 mark.
“The year before we lost all but seven yards and we made it work,” Arnold said. “That’s part of being at Knox. We have guys coming up, so the cupboard’s not bare. Usually, this time of year I’m laying in bed going, ‘What are we going to do?’ I’m still panicked, but not as much as I usually am.”
Arnold’s nerves quiet down when he understands that every team is in the same boat.
“For once, we’re all kind of even,” he said. “We started lifting and had done it for about a month when everyone stopped lifting. When we start again, everyone will start at the same time. We’ll start with a decent amount of returning players and we’ll start fresh better than we normally do.
“Everyone will have a crash course to get ready for the season. The teams on our schedule were senior-loaded last year, so they’ll have to break in some younger kids in a short amount of time. I think that may help us, also.”
Arnold said his squad is doing what every other high school athlete is doing this time of year.
“We’re doing virtual team meetings, like everyone else is doing, and we have a Google classroom where we post workouts,” the coach said. “We’re in more of a unique situation because the base is like a small town and has their own police force. It’s a small base and if you’ve got a group of kids playing basketball or football somewhere, the military police is going to find you. I feel the kids are under more of a microscope.
“Everyone is at home right now, so if there is a bunch of kids together doing something, the MP is going to get a call. You have to trust your kids to do what they’re supposed to do.”
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