Dylan Ball

WEST WILKES’ Dylan Ball and Jackson Jarvis (5) bring down Grayson County’s Holden Cassell during last year’s game. The two teams were scheduled to play on Sept. 18 but that game has been canceled following VHSL’s announcement last week that high school football will not be played this fall.

On the heels of North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s announcement to reopen schools, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association and its board of directors announced on July 15 that the start of the Fall 2020 sports season would be delayed.

Right now, the decision is to postpone the start of NCHSAA fall sports until at least Sept. 1. But Que Tucker, the NCHSAA commissioner, stated that delayed start date is not “in cement.”

She also said that date could be delayed further if the association does not have improved data from the Department of Health and Human Services, or some other reason exists for delaying further into September or beyond.

“For now, we believe these steps provide hope for our student athletes, and the possibility for playing fall sports. We know that many decisions are being made relative to the reopening plan your school(s) will follow,” Tucker said in a statement to the media. “After each LEA (local educational agency) has had an opportunity to formalize and finalize those reopening plans, the NCHSAA Staff will survey the membership to determine how sports should and/or can fit into the various models that will exist across the state.”

The first day of fall practice was scheduled for Aug. 1 with the first regular season contests slated for Aug. 17 for all the fall sports, except football (their first regular season games were slated for Aug. 21).

The potential Sept. 1 start date means that is the first date that NCHSAA teams can start practice for their upcoming seasons.

For Justin Call, East Wilkes’ athletic director, the announcement didn’t come as much of a surprise following Cooper’s announcement to institute “Plan B” for reopening schools. Plan B stated that the state’s public schools could reopen under a modified plan to allow in-person and remote learning.

Wilkes County schools are also planning to follow that model.

“The delay was something that I expected with the way we are beginning school,” said Call. “We want to get all our student-athletes playing again, but we want to be able to ensure their safety while playing as well. Hopefully, things will improve and we can get everyone back on the fields and courts in September.”

In addition to the announcement of school and delaying the start of fall sports, the NCHSAA also designated the first five student days of the school year as a “dead period,” which means no workouts are allowed.

The NCHSAA will allow teams to continue with limited summer conditioning and workouts under Phase One of its return to athletics plan.

Logan Call, North Wilkes’ athletic director, felt the decision made will allow students and school faculty to focus solely on the academic year when schools open in August.

“I think the decision by the NCHSAA to postpone the start of fall sports came as no surprise to most parties involved,” said Call. “The decision allows school districts and the NCHSAA more time to work and develop a plan that best serves our student-athletes, coaches, and the community as a whole.  It also allows our administrators, teachers and students to focus solely on the start of the 2020-21 academic year in August.”

Summer workouts in North Carolina began June 15 but school systems were allowed to wait to start their workouts.

Several school systems, including some of the larger ones in the state in terms of number of high schools (including Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford) have indicated that it either hasn’t started summer workouts or suspended them indefinitely.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools announced last Thursday, July 16, it has extended its sports suspension indefinitely.

Wilkes County schools and the other Mountain Valley Athletic Conference schools started July 6 and will continue.

Todd Rutz, West Wilkes’ athletic director, is worried about getting in a fall sports season based off the decisions made by surrounding states to either suspend, or even cancel, certain fall sports.

Virginia announced the middle of last week that it was cancelling its high school football season. The Blackhawk football team was scheduled to host Grayson County (Va.) on Sept. 18.

“It is kind of what I expected.  With all the current changes at the professional and college level along with other state’s decisions (Virginia), I will be surprised if we have a fall season at all,” said Rutz. “It looks especially bleak for football, though we may have the opportunity to go ahead with (lower-risk) sports like tennis and golf.

“If by September 1, we continue to be at 50 percent academically with students at school every other day, it will be hard to justify ‘normal’ athletics.”

The delayed start of fall practice means the first two weeks of the fall season will either be canceled or postponed. With the exception of girl’s tennis, all those games were scheduled to be nonconference contests.

MVAC volleyball and soccer matches were scheduled to begin Sept. 3 and Sept. 14, respectively.

NCHSAA rules state that football players must have at least eight practice days before playing, including three in full pads. In a regular schedule, teams usually practice at least two weeks before playing scrimmages with the regular season opener usually taking place the following week.

If practices begin Sept. 1, that would put the season openers for football on Sept. 18. Nearly all of the MVAC teams, except for West Wilkes and Elkin, were scheduled to have their byes that week. The MVAC portion of the football schedule is set to begin Sept. 25.

“It might be a tough year for fall, and maybe even winter sports. I do know that the athletes, coaches and community here at West Wilkes are committed to high school athletics,” said Rutz. “We will be flexible, patient, and resilient as we move forward with uncertainty.”

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