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High school athletics to begin in August

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07 21 UIL delay graph

By Brian Besch
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Polk County-An announcement from the University Interscholastic League (UIL) Tuesday revealed the state’s larger schools will endure a month-long setback for high school fall sports. 

The good news for enthusiasts of football, volleyball, cross country and tennis in Polk County is that the long drought without sports is likely over in August.

Class 6A and Class 5A schools will have the start of practices pushed back from Aug. 3 to Sept. 7. The first week of football games will be Sept. 24-26, instead of the originally scheduled Aug. 27-29. Dates will remain unchanged for schools in Class 1A-4A.

According to the UIL, “The adjustments reflect the public health situation at this time and the varying numbers of COVID-19 cases across different geographic areas of the state.” The plan provides a delay for schools in highly-populated metro areas, and provides schools in other areas an opportunity to start their season on schedule. 

“Acknowledging the situation is not always clear-cut and that COVID-19 affects every community differently, the plan also allows for local flexibility and encourages districts to plan for possible interruptions in order to complete district seasons,” the press release stated. “With the understanding that not all schools will be able to start at the same time, this plan allows for schools to make playing decisions at the local level, and the UIL will work directly with schools that have scheduling issues not addressed in this plan to allow them flexibility to complete as many contests as possible.”

The UIL’s plan also allows for fans to attend games and events with a maximum 50 percent capacity and a requirement that all spectators older than 10 must wear a face covering.

“Our goal in releasing this plan is to provide a path forward for Texas students and schools,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. “While understanding situations change and there will likely be interruptions that will require flexibility and patience, we are hopeful this plan allows students to participate in the education-based activities they love in a way that prioritizes safety and mitigates risk of COVID-19 spread.”

Though beginning “as scheduled,” Livingston football needed to adjust that schedule, as TAPPS school Concordia Lutheran and Class 5A Dayton were the first two regular season matches slated for 2020. The planned road contests will now be replaced with two travel games, starting the season at Needville, then journeying to Palestine. Those road trips will be returned, as the Blue Jays and Wildcats will now come to Livingston for the 2021 season. 

“It’s crazy, like in January or February all over again with realignment,” Livingston Athletic Director Finis Vanover said. “It’s nice to finally have an answer — that’s the big deal. There’s been no information and all rumors with nothing solid. When they finally released the deal this morning, at least you can breathe a sigh of relief that we have an official date, official plan and here it is.

“They cut off one of our scrimmages and that hurts a little bit. I have no idea why they did that, so we just get the one. We’ll have three weeks of practice and then one scrimmage.”

The Lions will need to also search for a scrimmage, as both were canceled.

The Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs have undergone plenty of changes in the past few months, but the schedule will not be one of them. New Athletic Director Brett Ratliff said the announcement was a relief to know when games begin.

“Just from what I have been hearing and seeing what TAPPS brought out earlier last week, I really felt strongly that there was going to be some type of delay in some form or fashion,” Ratliff said. “I did not know that they were thinking about just delaying 5A and 6A. When you go and look at the numbers and looking at the statistics for the virus, it makes sense and I can understand why they are trying stagger it. I was a little surprised that they didn’t stall us as well, but I am pleasantly surprised.

“It is relief. We want to play and the kids want to play. They deserve to play and have the opportunity. We’re going to do the best job that we can as a coaching staff and as a school district to make sure we keep these kids safe and keep us safe. These kids need this, not only just to play the sport, but for the social interaction and the lessons that they are going to learn for life.”

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