FORT KNOX, Ky. — Enthusiasm is very high among the coaches and players of this year’s Fort Knox Eagles football team.

Fort Knox Eagles football team pursuing winning season after being sidelined in 2020
Fort Knox Eagles head coach Wes Arnold encourages his football players during an Aug. 4, 2021 practice. About 40 high school students have suited up this year to field a team. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

Eagles head coach Wes Arnold said some of that enthusiasm comes from having to miss the entire season in 2020 due to COVID-19. While most other schools in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association fielded a team last year, though under strict guidelines, Department of Defense Education Activity officials decided it would be best to cancel most fall sports on post.

“We did some conditioning and stuff, but it was hard because everybody else played and we didn’t,” said Arnold. “It’s hard to ask kids to come out and lift weights and condition with no real chance of a season.”

Arnold said all that changed beginning in the spring of 2021.

“We were just trying to get through last year, and we started picking things back up in the spring,” said Arnold. “We also had spring sports, which was good.”

He admitted that over the summer coaches were a little concerned about whether they would get any interest from students in this year’s football season. Their concerns vanished at the first practice.

Fort Knox Eagles football team pursuing winning season after being sidelined in 2020
Linemen from the Fort Knox Eagles football team practice reaction drills, learning to anticipate moving when the ball moves. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

“We’ve got good numbers out here for a small school. We’re closing in on 40 players again on our roster,” said Arnold. “There’s only five left from the 2019 season — turnover here is always high — but the kids are out here, and they’re giving me great effort. That’s all I can ask for.”

Arnold said another dynamic of the team could make a big difference in how the season progresses for them.

“We have a lot of skilled kids,” said Arnold. “This is my fourth year as a head coach, and this is the best attitude that I’ve had from a team. The kids produce great effort together, they get along, and they really support each other.”

Despite the delta variant of COVID-19 affecting schools and communities in Kentucky, Arnold said he feels hopeful that the athletic association won’t cancel this season.

“We’re still waiting on some guidance from the KHSAA, but we do a lot of COVID mitigation ourselves,” said Arnold. “We wear masks, especially indoors. We do everything outside now; we don’t go indoors for anything. We disinfect a lot of stuff. We wash their uniforms every day.

“We’re just trying to do our best, and talk to the kids about being leaders and smart when they’re out in public so we make sure to keep this virus out of locker rooms.”

Arnold said the team features players with some good speed. One of those who hadn’t planned to suit up this season was Tristin Griffin.

The senior already has made a name for himself in Kentucky, winning second place in the 400m at State last year. Arnold recently approached him about joining the team. Griffin is expected to cover the offensive receiver and defensive back positions.

“I played football in 7th and 8th grades, but high school football is definitely different. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I do,” said Griffin. “Being out here with this team is kind of like a family.”

Griffin said he is hoping to snag at least five interceptions on defense during the season and 20 or more receptions on offense. After football, however, Griffin also looking beyond even high school in the hopes of receiving track scholarships for college.

Fort Knox Eagles football team pursuing winning season after being sidelined in 2020
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Players from the different squads practice drills designed to increase their speed, quickness and reaction times on the ball. Head Coach Wes Arnold said this year’s squad has “the best attitude that I’ve had from a team.” (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Knox Eagles football team pursuing winning season after being sidelined in 2020
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Players from the different squads practice drills designed to increase their speed, quickness and reaction times on the ball. Head Coach Wes Arnold said this year’s squad has “the best attitude that I’ve had from a team.” (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Knox Eagles football team pursuing winning season after being sidelined in 2020
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Players from the different squads practice drills designed to increase their speed, quickness and reaction times on the ball. Head Coach Wes Arnold said this year’s squad has “the best attitude that I’ve had from a team.” (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

Another senior, Easton Colvin, said the loss of his junior year season was difficult, but he is ready to get back out on the gridiron. He will cover the middle linebacker and halfback positions.

“I’m excited to have this season and hope to God that the new variant doesn’t cancel it,” said Colvin. “Getting back into shape is exciting, especially since missing one, football, and two, [wrestling] last year. It really put a dent into what I was able to do.”

Colvin said he is not looking to play football beyond his final year at Fort Knox, but instead is targeting academies once he graduates, which include the U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Naval Academy. His desire is for love of the game:

“Being out here for my last year is amazing.”

Offensive line and defensive nose tackle Thomas Hackett has played football at Fort Knox his last three years minus last season. The senior said last year’s team was hyped about their chances since many of them had returned from the 2019 season.

“We were all ready to go but once we got told there would be no season, all of us were pretty upset about it,” said Hackett. “This is more than a game to many of us. This is like life. It’s fun coming out here every day, seeing everyone, and just playing the game.”

Fort Knox Eagles football team pursuing winning season after being sidelined in 2020
Putting it all together. Coach Arnold works on plays during the end of each practice to help the entire team gel and hone plays. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

Arnold said that enthusiasm from this year’s Eagles team holds some secrets he is planning to reveal during the season.

“We always have good athletes here at Fort Knox,” said Arnold, “but I think we’re going to surprise some people this year.”