Jacob Siciliano, Online Editor-in-Chief

Junior wide receiver Owen Walter grabbed the handle of teammate Jack Davis’ 2014 Mercedes on Wednesday, April 7. After a long football practice, Davis and Walter had decided to reward themselves with a treat from Dairy Queen; however, as Walter pulled the handle of Davis’ car he noticed something wasn’t right. His mom had come home unusually early that day.

His suspicions were only confirmed moments later when he heard those four words from a parent no kid wants to hear: “we need to talk.”

Walter’s mind immediately scrambled to remember what he’d done wrong the last few weeks. He couldn’t find anything. Walter then proceeded to ask his mom if he was in trouble. Her response was no, but the news she broke devastated him. Walter had fallen victim to being a COVID-19 close contact, for the second time this year. He would have to quarantine once again, in the middle of Prospect’s 3-0 season.

“I was standing and my legs just gave out. I lost my balance and I had to hold myself up against the wall. I was sad, [devastated,]” Walter said. “The sport I love so much and the sport I work so hard for was just taken away by something I couldn’t control.”

Walters’ story is just one of many at Prospect as the return of 1700 prospect students has made social distancing a nightmare and close contacts a scary reality. Students were previously able to avoid becoming a COVID-19 close contact by staying six feet apart in class. Now students are only spaced three feet apart, so if a classmate sits next to someone who tests positive, they have to quarantine along with that student. It’s a situation that has made many student-athletes feel extremely vulnerable.

“In the hybrid learning [environment] I felt so comfortable, because I knew I was six feet and wasn’t going to get taken out if somebody else in my class had it,” Walter said. “I regret [going to school] now, but I learn so much better in person. I just didn’t realize that it’s a threat; It’s a threat to be in school.”

With Prospect football on the verge of going undefeated for the first time since 2001, the team made a decision to protect their investment. That night, just hours after Walter along with two other teammates were quarantined, the team made the decision to remain home for the rest of the season.

“It wasn’t a hard decision to stay home for us. We all trained hard and have fought to have this season,” junior linebacker Jacob Greziak said. “Football means a lot for all of us and we just decided it was best to not jeopardize the season and stay home.”

This decision was solely made by the players, acting as a testament to how committed this team is. Prospect head coach Dan Debouf said that staying home or going in person was a family decision, and he would support his players either way. However, not a single varsity football player went in-person to school the following day.

The team has stayed remote since that fateful night of April 7, but learning from home has had its own set of challenges.

“I’m not the best at school, so being in person helped me out so much,” Walter said. “You can’t go watch TV, play Xbox or go on your phone in class. You’re stuck on your iPad, you have to do your work and get it finished.”

However, Walter and Greziak agree that those challenges pale in comparison to the possibility of losing their season.

“Football means a lot to me and is a huge part of my life. So, I was willing to take a few more weeks at home for a season,” Greziak said.

For Walter, this story has a happy ending as a positive test for COVID-19 antibodies and a negative test for COVID-19 cleared him to play in Prospects 56-33 win over Buffalo Grove. The April 16 win marked Prospects first MSL east title since 2012.

The other two affected by this “outbreak” have returned to practice and will be cleared to return to take on Barrington in the MSL Championship.

Even though this outbreak has separated some members from the team, Walter says that this experience has brought the knights closer than ever.

“That’s my brother, he ain’t that heavy is what we say before games,” Walter said. “We always have eachothers backs and that’s what I love so much about this team.”