GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) — It's something we've never seen before: high school football in the spring.
On Monday, teams that opted out of the traditional fall season and into the WIAA's alternate spring season took the practice field for the first time.
"It's weird for sure," Notre Dame senior TE/LB Aiden Wolfram said. "But it's great at the same time because as seniors we didn't really get a chance to go out there.
"It's great to be out here with the guys," he said. "Super exciting."
Last fall, Notre Dame was the only team in the Fox River Classic Conference planning to play football. But high COVID-19 case numbers forced the Tritons to shut down just one day before their first scheduled game.
They shifted to spring, and are now one of 37 northeast Wisconsin teams participating in the new-look season.
"Obviously I'm pleased that we're playing," Notre Dame head coach Mike Rader said. "In hindsight, I wish we could have played in fall. Everything would have felt a little bit more normal, kids would have gone on with their lives the way that we normally do.
"With the way that the (COVID-19) numbers were at the time, I totally understand the decision and support it," he added. "But in hindsight, it would have been nice to get that season in."
Since the FRCC had already gone forward with its spring schedule - joining forces with the Fox Valley Association to form a 20-school super conference - Notre Dame is left without a conference.
Instead, they will play an independent schedule, competing against schools from all across Wisconsin.
"We're going to be able to see different parts of the state that we'll be playing in," Rader said. "It will be special and right now it really doesn't matter who we play. The fact that we'll be out here and we'll get to play for these seven weeks, it will be awesome."
"It's just going to be like facing a whole new situation I guess," Wolfram said. "We know all the teams in our conference but we've never really experienced what (these other teams) have so we're just going to have to watch a lot of film and prepare."
A different schedule and also a different set of goals for this unusual season.
"There's not a lot on the line," Rader said. "We're not playing for a tournament appearance, we're not playing for a conference championship, we're just playing a game.
"So it really just brings it back to that, when you go out and play in the backyard, you're throwing the football around and having fun with your friends, that's hopefully the experience that these guys will have."
IMPORTANT NOTES ABOUT THE ALTERNATE SPRING FOOTBALL SEASON
Teams will play seven games, which is two fewer than schools in the traditional fall season were able to schedule. Teams can begin playing games on March 24 with the season ending on May 8.
There is no state tournament, which was the case in the fall as well. Some conferences, like the Fox Valley Classic (a combination of the FRCC and FVA), are scheduling a two-round playoff at the end of the season. While others, like Notre Dame, have scheduled seven "regular season" games.
Players do not have to wear masks while playing, as we've seen in other sports like basketball.
Also, in addition to football, players will be allowed to play a traditional spring sport - like baseball or track and field. Those seasons will overlap by about two weeks. Notre Dame coaches and players said they are not sure yet how that will work logistically.