Once Boston College returned to Chestnut Hill on Saturday after going to Death Valley and putting a scare into No. 1 Clemson that served notice that the Eagles can compete with any college football team in the country, coach Jeff Hafley sent a message to his staff to touch base with all the players.
“Just make sure you check on your guys and make sure they’re being smart and responsible and doing everything that we can do to stay healthy because there’s a lot of football left to play,” Hafley said.
The Eagles had been both diligent in following protocols as college football navigates in the COVID-19 era and fortunate to have just one player test positive since June.
Going to Clemson, where the campus has the second-most confirmed cases of any university in the country and playing in front of a crowd of 19,000 fans, heightened their awareness.
“We weren’t around too many people down there,” Hafley said following the 34-28 defeat. “We stayed together at the hotel. We were smart. We wore masks. We were around each other. We just got tested. The game, I mean, we’re in close contact. But from everything I read and everything I hear, there haven’t been many cases transmitted from player to player on the field. So we’ll keep an eye on it.”
Prior to the game, the Eagles announced that they were now up to 6,000 tests with only one positive. That count is perhaps a bigger success than their 4-3 record in their first year under Hafley. A large part of that can be attributed to the bubble-like atmosphere the Eagles have created for players.
“When we go on road trips, when we’re in a hotel and we see a group of people not wearing masks and they go into an elevator, we can’t go on that elevator with them," he said. "We have to be smart about where we are in the hotel. But for the most part, when we go to a hotel, it’s almost like we create our own bubble. We don’t see anybody. We go to our rooms and come back down, we eat, and we go play football. And then after the game, we get on the plane, come back, and we test.”
As the season presses on, the Eagles will find themselves in more challenging circumstances. They’ll play their third road game in four weeks when they travel Saturday to face Syracuse (1-6).
“We’ve got a great protocol,” Hafley said. “So far, we’ve been so good. I know. It’s hard. It’s really hard. It’s amazing what we’ve done so far. It’s kind of unbelievable. So we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing, and hopefully, we’ll continue to work out.”
The Atlantic Coast Conference requires teams to test three times each week — once three days before the game, once the day before, and the last within 48 hours of game’s end. The Eagles completed their final round of last week’s testing Sunday.
Hafley said the team won’t be any more cautious than they’ve already been each week.
“I think if you look at it, we only can control what we can control,” Hafley said. “And that’s our guys keeping their masks on or guys staying away from a lot of people indoors or guys washing their hands or guys just being really smart and thinking about each other. And I think they’ve done an incredible job so far.”
With just four games left, the Eagles can see the finish line.
“Hopefully, we’ll continue to be safe,” Hafley said. “But the guys have done a really good job so far, and let’s just continue to do it.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.