MHSAA sets September 4th start date for high school football

By virtue of being an extremely physical contact sport, football is the most popular sport. It’s also the most dangerous sport in the midst of a global pandemic for the same exact reason.

Yet, it’s a sport that still has a 2020 season in the state of Mississippi.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Mississippi High School Activities Association voted to delay the start of football season, as well as swimming, volleyball, and cross country by two weeks, effectively eliminating those first two Friday’s from the schedule. MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton said, “We need some direction now. Again, we’ve tried to wait as long as we can to hear what the experts have to say, to see what those numbers have done and we needed to give our schools some direction.”

A step in the right direction in terms of playing a 2020 season in the fall, compared to the likes of New Mexico, already moving football to the spring semester. “We made our opening statement today to our committee is that we are high school sports and activities in the state of Mississippi. We’re not in Alabama or Tennessee. Everyone’s situation is different. And we’re interscholastic, we’re not college and we’re not pro. And so we made our decision based on what’s best for our schools.”

August 17th is now the start of official practice and September 4th the start of the regular season. Less than six months after all spring sports were suspended and later canceled for the entire state. Gulfport Head Football Coach John Archie said, “I believe statewide it’s a relief of all the coaches. Everyone has a final answer. We’ve been going since March. This question has been out there, are we going to play high school football? So now, I think it’s a relief.”

Biloxi Head Football Coach Katlan French said, “Definitely a sigh of relief because you’ve seen some horror stories with people shutting things down and all of that. And I understand both sides of the fence here and I know the main concern is keeping everybody healthy. But if there’s a way to play, and obviously there is considering we’ve scheduled August 17th being the start date, then we’re going to be ready to play.”

But what if there isn’t a way to play or at the very least what if there isn’t a way to play in front of fans? Schools like Gulfport and Biloxi already lost two home games to start the 2020 campaign and it’s highly unlikely the Indians make the trip out to Hammond, Louisiana on September 11th.

The Admirals now open with three straight road games and won’t play at Milner Stadium until October 2nd. “Yeah, there’s definitely a concern. I mean by missing the first two weeks, we’re missing two home games so that in and of itself hurts us a little bit.”

“It’s going to be a big blow to our athletic department revenue. We’re searching for a game to try to make up on that off-week. But with the money thing we’re getting to play, but we would love to have those first two home games. Football does a lot for the school, athletic department, revenue wise and we’re going to lose those two games. But we’re thankful and blessed to have those other opportunities to play for the rest of the year.”

The added threat of coronavirus outbreaks in the locker room makes Tuesday’s decision subject to change. But as of now, championship weekend is still set for December 4th and 5th at Mississippi State with all winter and spring sports currently unaffected. “Small price to pay. I think if you told us that was the only way and obviously that is the best way for now, then we’re all going to take it because we want a season. We want to be able to play. We want our kids to be able to play and get to experience high school football.”

Hinton says moving football to the spring is an option, just not a viable option at this time. He says his biggest fear is having to cancel fall sports as was the case for spring sports back in March.

The executive committee will be meeting again within the next few weeks.

Categories: Local Sports, Sports

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