CEDAR PARK, Texas - The players started packing for their last gameday bus ride early Friday morning. This drive to a championship by the Cedar Park High School football team began with a lot of uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was really unpredictable, but we just had it always in the back of our mind we'd be here," said CPHS player Cade Haught.
Cade’s teammate Kevin Adams agreed it’s been crazy. "We were ready for this day, ready for it to come, we are just glad to be here today," he said.
Last week the team continued its undefeated run, punching a ticket to the 5A Division 1 Championship Game. "It’s been a long process to get here by our kids and our coaches, so today is an amazing day," said Head Coach Carl Abseck.
A big sendoff for the big game kicked off in front of the CPHS athletic building. Family and classmates cheered the players - as they walked out and walked onto the buses that would take them to Arlington. The number of people at the celebration was limited, like at games, because of COVID19.
"Very weird, just not being able to have everybody together, and doing the whole face mask and COVID, it’s been very different. But we've done well," said Booster Club member Melissa Smith.
When the UIL announced last year that there would be a high school football season, FOX 7 Austin spoke with the coach. He talked about the late start to the season and also about the COVID-19 safety message he had for his players regarding finishing out the season.
"We're going to have to still do the temperature checks, will have to do the surveys every day to know how they're feeling and take precautions if necessary and not practice that particular individual and things of that nature," said Coach Abseck in July.
The plan worked, the team avoided being sacked by COVID-19. Only one game against Pflugerville had to be rescheduled because of the virus.
"It's been very difficult for them because so much of it is out of their nature, but they've done a great job in adjusting and doing what’s been asked of them, I couldn't be more proud of them in how they have handled this whole year, this whole situation," said Coach Abseck Friday morning.
That dedication was rewarded with a parade from campus. The trip went through the west side of town. The caravan passed by several schools. Students and fans held up signs and cheered as the buses rolled by.
"That was fantastic. Wow," said Stuart Altman.
In a video provided to FOX 7 Austin, you could hear players, support, and others on the bus spot friends and family cheering along the roadway. The swing through town added about 45 minutes to the 3-hour bus trip.
The game kicks off at 7 pm Friday night. Regardless of the outcome of the game, completing this pandemic journey is simply a victory in itself.