The LHSAA has officially pushed the 2020 high school football season into October.
A memo surfaced on social media Wednesday afternoon that notified participating schools a game couldn’t be scheduled before Oct. 8. The LHSAA later confirmed with LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine discussing protocols and schedule alterations on a Zoom media call.
While the memo answered questions about start dates, coaches like West Ouachita’s Matt Middleton had more questions about the logistics of the season once receiving the email.
“So with it being Oct. 8, does that put me right in district play?” Middleton asked. “Because the dates are scratched out for the championship games does that mean we’re not playing in New Orleans anymore? Do we still get to play a full season? And we haven’t even gone back to school yet. When these kids intermingle again is where we’re going to find out what’s really going on. Are kids going to contract it from other kids? A lot of people are waiting to see how the kids interact with one another. I can control social distancing at workouts, but I can’t control what you do on a Saturday night or what happens when they get around other kids. I want to play, but I just still have a lot of questions.”
Bonine issued further details late Wednesday afternoon about the timeframe but acknowledged it was a fluid situation. Bonine said the LHSAA could start with Week 3 opponents for a slightly abbreviated eight-game regular season. There could be fewer playoff opponents, and teams could still potentially play championship games in New Orleans with a little maneuvering around bowl games and a New Orleans Saints home game around Christmas time.
Bonine also discussed the possibility of having a six-game schedule starting Oct. 8 that would keep championship dates in place that were already set for the Superdome in New Orleans.
Another meeting is scheduled for September when Bonine and other officials hope to have more answers for the upcoming season.
After receiving the memo, St. Frederick head coach Andy Robinson called a staff meeting before Wednesday’s afternoon practice. Before meeting with his fellow coaches, Robinson said the challenge now becomes keeping everything fresh for the players.
“We still get to be around the kids, which is great,” Robinson said. “But now we have to come up with a plan for October. Just to get some information is good. There has been so much unknown.”
The LHSAA released practice guidelines in July, stating teams could practice in helmets on Aug. 3 and shoulder pads Aug. 6. Schools can't go to full pads until Phase III. Middleton said he sees no point in putting on shoulder pads two months out from playing.
“Those dates don’t affect me,” said Middleton on Wednesday. “For shoulder pads, it would be to get the kids adjusted to the weather because we can’t bang. We weren’t even putting on helmets this week because we were trying to work our way toward that. (Tuesday) I told our kids, ‘I know the governor just kept us in Phase II for three more weeks, but hey, let’s stay ready.’ I’m sure some are thinking, ‘OK, Coach, how many times are you going to say that?’”
Neville’s Jeff Tannehill said the extra time actually works in his favor as he steps in for Mickey McCarty as the Tigers new head coach. Two additional months of prep work allow Tannehill more time to install a couple of more things while his players receive extra time for reps.
“Right now we have a start date, and we’re happy about that,” Tannehill said. “We’ll continue to work toward that date as Week 1. We’ll have questions as it goes, but at this point and time, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We just want to play. I don’t want to sound like (Ed Orgeron) the other day about playing in a pasture, but we’ll do it.”
Since last spring, LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine has made decisions regarding play based off of the recommendations from Gov. John Bel Edwards, but has stressed the LHSAA's phases don't go hand-in-hand with the state's.
After Edwards announced the state would remain in Phase II until Aug. 28, the LHSAA pushed back its start date. Scrimmages were originally scheduled to be held the last weekend of August with most schools beginning the season on Sept. 4.
The LHSAA guidelines issued to coaches this summer prevented schools from participating in contact drills until after Phase III. Under this current plan, after 14 days in Phase III, Bonine said the LHSAA will petition state officials to allow for collision drills over the next 21 days.
The association hopes to have three weeks of full-contact before student-athletes take the field for games.