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High school football and volleyball to be played this fall, but postponed
Local sports fans got an answer to a pressing question on Tuesday when the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) announced its decision on how the Covid-19 pandemic would impact fall sports, including football.
MHSAA officials met in a lengthy session Tuesday in Jackson with the end result being a plan to push fall seasons for public high school sports in Mississippi back two weeks because of concerns over the continued spread of coronavirus. In making the announcement, MHSAA officials emphasized that new information could cause changes later.
Football practice at Mississippi public schools can begin Aug. 17, with scrimmages between schools able to begin Sept. 4, with games following on Sept. 11. The organization said football playoff and championship dates in November and December are unchanged. Football games scheduled for the first two weeks of the season will not be made up.
Cross country, swimming and volleyball teams can start practicing Aug. 10 and competing Aug. 24.
Asked whether he approved of the decision by MHSAA, Greene County High School head football coach Rotch Dungan said he was just relieved a decision had been made.
“It is absolutely a good feeling to get the unknown out of the way,” Dungan said. “Now we can go ahead and start making our plans.”
“Regardless of what decision was made, there were going to be people who were unhappy about it. We are glad to know we are going to have a season and have confidence everything will work out moving forward.”
There is one big sticking point for Wildcat fans as one of the two games on the schedule set to be cancelled was the annual rivalry game between Greene County and the George County Rebels. Dungan and George County officials worked quickly Tuesday to salvage the game, but as a jamboree matchup, not an official game.
“It is important to the players and fan bases of both teams, so we will be doing our best to find a way to play the game with George County,” Dungan told the Herald a few hours before news broke of the change to a jamboree matchup.
The other game on the schedule that will take a hit is the Wildcats’ scheduled season-opener at Biloxi. That would have been a good test for Dungan’s first Wildcat team and as a 2-year contract game would have also been a nice boost to the Wildcats’ finances.
The Wildcats will open the regular season at home one week after the scrimmage with the Rebels. With that Sept. 4 matchup against Perry Central, the Cats will have three non-region games on the schedule prior to starting region play.
Greene County does not compete in cross country or swimming at this time, but has a growing volleyball program. While Tuesday’s decision was most-assuredly good news for the Lady Wildcats, the Herald was unable to get in touch with head coach Laurie Wyatt for her reaction to the news. GCHS Principal Scott Bray, however, was available for comment.
“While I am certainly disappointed we won’t be able to start the football and volleyball seasons on time, I am excited that it appears at this point our student athletes will be able to participate in their sports this year,” Bray said. “We as a school and staff are excited about getting the students back on campus. We have missed them and are looking forward to getting the school year underway. Go Cats.”
MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton said Tuesday afternoon that association officials will remain in contact with medical experts, government officials and school administrators about the pandemic and cautioned that “new information can and will alter plans and schedules at any time.”
“We know how important these extracurricular activities are to the students, parents, families, schools and communities of our state,” Hinton said in a statement. “We’re staying optimistic and doing everything we can to move forward for the upcoming school year.”
Hinton added that there had been a lot of talk about the MHSAA flipping the fall and spring sports seasons or just moving fall sports — and specifically football — to the spring. But those changes would have created “an entirely different set of challenges and logistical issues,” he said, including an overlap with athletes, coaches and game officials.
“As far as swapping the Fall and Spring seasons, we’ve heard from many coaches and administrators who feel it would be unfair to ask the coaches and sports cancelled in April to turn around and play with all the challenges we’ll be facing this fall,” Hinton said.
Mississippi’s state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said during a news conference with the governor on Tuesday that football might be possible with some safety precautions for players, though he said it’s possible that teams will have players out with the virus at different times.
“Crowds are never safe right now, so that’s a real concern,” Dobbs said.