Israel ‘Izzy’ Duncan said team chemistry started with a commitment to the weight room long before practice started for this season
The Prairie Falcons are on a mission, looking for a bounce-back season after enduring that very odd COVID football campaign.
The 2019 Class 3A Greater St. Helens League champions did not win a game in the spring of 2021.
Simply bizarre. An anomaly, perhaps.
Coaches and players could give a variety of reasons for what went wrong. Instead, today’s Falcons are focusing on what has gone right since that spring season, and the hope for what will go right in the coming weeks.
“We had the most people I’ve ever seen in the weight room,” senior Israel “Izzy” Duncan said. “There were at least 60 dudes there every day, just wanting to get better. That’s really cool to see, that people are committed to getting better.”
Duncan was one of the sophomores who got plenty of time on the field in 2019. He knows what it takes on and off the field. In the spring, the Falcons lacked chemistry, he acknowledged. Wasn’t necessarily the fault of any one person or a group of players. The program just struggled with all the pandemic restrictions. This program is built in the weight room, with team bonding off the field first.
That couldn’t happen in 2020 and into early 2021.
“We just got thrown in,” to the season, Duncan said.
No, society and athletics are not back to normal. But there was a more traditional offseason heading into this fall sports season. The Falcons took advantage, led by their seniors, including Duncan.
“I see myself as a natural leader,” said Duncan, with a booming, deep voice that could make him millions in voice-acting if he were to go that route in his future. “I love being out here, building this culture.”
Prairie coach Mike Peck surely appreciates that attitude. This is uncharted territory for all football coaches, dealing with the return of a football offseason just after that abbreviated season concluded. No one knew exactly how the players in their program would respond with little time off.
The Falcons hit the weight room. Big time.
“This summer was the huge thing … where they were able to have an offseason and develop there,” Peck said. “I think it’s made a huge difference with everybody in the program.”
On the field, Duncan’s goal is to play all 48 minutes. Offense. Defense. Special teams.
He is known more for his defense, as a defensive end or linebacker. On offense he will be an H-back and a receiver. “A Jack-of-all-trades,” Peck said.
“He’s a hard worker. He just gets after it every day. He’s very smart, and he cares. A lot of guys rally around him.”
Duncan said he has always loved defense, but he cannot wait to showcase his talents on offense more this season.
Duncan can also be easily spotted on the field, as his long hair cannot be contained by his football helmet. The “surfer flow” is not going anywhere, he said.
Duncan and the Prairie Falcons are going places, he said.
“I honestly think we can go as far as the 2019 team,” Duncan said. “Win league, win a playoff game, and get to the state playoffs. We all want to win this year. I’m not saying that was entirely lacking (in the spring) but it definitely wasn’t as much as this year. We are all very committed.”