SOUTH BELOIT—Sam Cady knew he was going to have a different type of offseason.

But nobody could be prepared for what COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon area football programs.

Cady, the South Beloit football head coach, is in the process of transitioning his program to an eight-man program.

Not having any type of contact with his players since mid-March has certainly been a challenge, but Cady and the rest of the Illinois prep football community got a lift with news from the IHSA Friday afternoon.

The governing body issued a list of guidelines that schools must meet in order to get back on the playing fields.

The guidelines included a strong recommendation to hold outdoor-only activities, practice social distancing and wear masks whenever possible.

Activities are limited to three hours per day, and no sport-specific drills are allowed. Coaches are to maintain a daily record of athlete attendance, and athletes will be monitored at the start of practice for temperature and other symptoms of coronavirus.

Workouts can begin immediately, pending the approval of each individual school district.

A lot of hoops to jump through? Certainly that’s the case. Cady is just glad there is a plan in place.

“It’s nice to see there’s finally something to follow,” Cady said. “We’ve been waiting for a while to see what the guidelines would be, and it does seem like a really solid plan is in place. They want to ease kids into it, instead of jumping right into full contact.”

Cady said the SoBos will also ease their way into action.

“We are going to hold off for at least a few more weeks,” Cady said. “We are going to continue to be in contact with the Winnebago County Health Department and our school board, and continue to monitor everything with the virus. Hopefully in a couple of weeks, we’ll have everything we need to move forward.”

Cady said the transition to eight-man was made shortly after the season ended.

“We just looked at our numbers and where we were,” Cady said. “There was talk at the end of the season about it, and we went to the community with it. Once we got support there, we went to the school board and they approved it. We moved forward in Feburary, adn we’re excited about the future.”

Cady said the program has the chance to grow playing eight-man.

“With sophomores and especially freshmen, it was tough to get them to come out,” Cady said. “We didn’t have enough numbers to field a JV team, so freshmen were practicing all week and then just sitting the bench on Friday nights. This way, even if we only have 30 kids, that will still allow us to field a JV team, and allow us to develop kids that are in our system for four years.”

After years of playing in the NUIC, the SoBos recently switched to the Northeastern Illinois Athletic Conference.

While many of their opponents remain in the Chicago area, Cady said the travel will be easier now.

“We don’t have any trips where we’re going four hours like we did last year,” Cady said. “Our longest trip this fall will be about 90 minutes.”

South Beloit is scheduled to open its new-look season on August 28 when the SoBos are scheduled to host River Ridge.