Lucas Watkins is ready for his team to witness Pirate Field at full capacity again.

Friday, he and his team get that chance, as football returns with no restrictions.

"It's going to be great. Hopefully, everything stays the same. I'm just praying that we can get some football in. It was so nice to get to your summer schedule, your weight-lifting and stuff like that, that you didn't have last year, and it's going to be electric. I'm looking forward to it, and I know the kids are, too."

After losing a season filled with expectations, Watkins walked away feeling disheartened, a feeling that he hopes he never has again.

"It was not fun; it was terrible. The kids were heartbroken," Watkins said. "We were fortunate that we could salvage something from the spring, but I remember that they were changing stuff constantly, and you didn't know what to expect. You didn't know what the next day would bring, but we were fortunate and grateful to get the opportunity to play last spring, and we hope that we don't have to go through anything like that again."

Now, as Watkins puts the past behind him and moves forward, he is eager to see what his team can do with a rigorous schedule in front of them.

Cumberland has five home games on the schedule this season, with the first two not necessarily being "cakewalks."

"We have Shelbyville and Tuscola as our Week 1 and 2 non-conference, and they play in the CIC, and that's a tough conference," Watkins said. "So, we're going to be tested early, but it helps being tested early on."

Adding onto the schedule will be a conference slate, highlighted by a Week 3 matchup at Arthur-Lovington Atwood-Hammond, who boasts Kaden Feagin, a three-star recruit, per 247 Sports, who has offers from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, and Notre Dame.

Cumberland has won the Lincoln Prairie Conference in five of Watkins' seven seasons so far, and even he knows that this time around will be as hard as it's ever been.

"Based on last year, Arcola is always good. They're always a tough game, and Arthur has the Feagin kid," Watkins said. "He's a running back for them. Villa Grove was a tough game last year in our conference, as well."

Contact EDN Sports Editor Alex Wallner at 217-347-7151 ext. 124 or

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