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Watch: ‘I just have to be grateful to even play.’ Inside Brockton football’s COVID-altered season

‘I just have to be grateful to even play.’ Inside Brockton football’s COVID-altered season
COVID-19 has upended life as we know it — including high school football. In Brockton, getting a chance to play is better than not playing at all. (Shelby Lum/Globe Staff)

Nayvon Reid wasn’t sure he’d ever take the field as a Brockton Boxer again.

“I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to play football my senior year, my last year of high school,” the wide receiver said. “So there were kind of a lot of questions, like, what am I going to do? How am I going to prepare for college? There were a lot of things running through my mind.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered life as we know it. More than 17,000 have died in Massachusetts. Lives have been upended, futures changed.

On a more personal level, the pandemic has ripped away many tiny joys and touchstones of adolescence — like high school football.

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No Friday night lights. No homecoming game. No pep rallies. No push for postseason glory.

For Reid and his teammates, some of that joy was restored when state officials planned a football season for late winter and spring. Postponing football from the fall to February meant trading falling leaves for frozen ground and a little less fanfare, but that didn’t matter much.

“Being a senior, I had to realize that I just have to be grateful to even play with all that’s going on,” Reid explained.

Boston Globe video journalist Shelby Lum chronicled Brockton’s unique season, from the first kick to the final play. In a new short documentary, she takes you behind the scenes as players navigate COVID protocols, a return to in-person learning, and the struggle to figure out what’s next in their football careers.

There was no locker room access, so athletes had to hold halftime meetings on a sunny corner of the field. Coaches’ commands were muffled by masks. Save for a few parents, the metal bleachers sat empty. The band, less than half the normal size, played on for the small crowds.

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But all those differences didn’t matter much once the whistle blew.

The Boxers culminated their 4-1 season with a Southeast Conference championship — a win over Bridgewater-Raynham. It was particularly special for Brockton coach Peter Colombo.

“Football’s been a huge part of my life,” said Colombo, whose revered late father, Armond, coached the Boxers from 1969-2003, and who has helped keep the “City of Champions” tradition alive since assuming the mantle.

“You look forward to the fall, you look forward to the challenges, and there’s nothing more enjoyable than winning a football game and seeing kids succeed, seeing a team achieve something that they’ve worked so hard for.

“So it’s just been a thrill to get that back.”

The stakes for quarterback Devonte Medley were a little bit higher. The senior had been counting on a fall season to help him find the right fit at the college level. (He spent his fall playing field hockey instead, and was named a Southeast Conference all-star).

Without the usual scouting period, Medley’s future remains in flux. He sent game links to recruiters, with the hope that they might tune in since they can’t be there in person.

“He can play at the next level,” Colombo said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Medley hasn’t made a decision yet, but for now, he is relishing the chance he had to be back on the field, with his teammates.

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After a unique season — a once-in-a-lifetime senior year of high school — he is seeing the good in the future, whatever it may look like.

“I’m going to have a lot of these guys as friends for a really long time,” he said.

Watch Brockton’s story:

‘I just have to be grateful to even play.’ Inside Brockton football’s COVID-altered season
COVID-19 has upended life as we know it — including high school football. In Brockton, getting a chance to play is better than not playing at all. (Shelby Lum/Globe Staff)



Shelby Lum can be reached at shelby.lum@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelby_lum. Katie McInerney can be reached at katie.mcinerney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac.