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From Staff Reports
Perry County student athletes, coaches and 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 and volleyball.
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.
There is one big sticking point for Perry Central and Richton fans as one of the two games on their schedules set to be cancelled was the annual rivalry game between the Bulldogs and the Rebels. While they have pushed the season back two weeks, MHSAA officials decided to let teams compete in jamboree games on Aug. 28. PCHS Head Coach Wesley McLain confirmed late Wednesday that he and Richton coach
Stephen Rice had looked at the change to the schedules and agreed to play in a jamboree on their original playing date.
“Obviously, we would have rather played the official game, but we are happy we will be able to get that one in as a jamboree at least.”
McLain said had mixed feelings about the MHSAA decision. He said he would have been okay with flipping the season until the spring, but understood the impact that could have had on other sports. He also said he would have been in favor of keeping the full regular season schedule and taking the two games off the end of the season by taking just the top two teams from each region for the playoffs.
“Losing those first two games is tough,” McLain said. “First, because of one those games was against Richton, and secondly, now we will open up with four 4A teams in a row. So, it is going to be a rugged start to the schedule for us.”
Richton football coach Stephen Rice said he appreciates the difficult choices the MHSAA committee had to consider and believes they did what they felt was best for the student athletes. With that said, he was disappointed in losing the early games as he will have a young team this year and would have benefitted from the game time.
“I think we are all in uncharted territory on this one,” Rice said. “Hopefully, we can get into the school year and get a chance to see how things are going to play out (with the virus) and make adjustments that will allow us to complete our season.”
Richton volleyball coach Kee Dykes said he was disappointed to lose practice and game time, but was happy his players would not have their season cancelled or postponed until spring. Dykes said he was not sure exactly what the impact would be on his revised schedule, but knew the Lady Rebels were looking at losing four games at the first of the season.
The Dispatch was unable to confirm any information regarding the PCHS volleyball program’s plans prior to press time.
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.