last week for their nationally televised ESPNU game, Alabama high school
football coaches Josh Floyd and Mark Freeman attended to similar due diligence
tasks. None had to do with special teams, trick plays or
Try spraying helmets, temperature checks and wiping down lockers, instead.
"Just trying to keep things normal and keep them safe," said Floyd before his No. 44 Hewitt-Trussville (Trussville)
squad lost a 35-21 home game defending 7A state champion Thompson (Alabaster)
Freeman, whose team moved up four spots to No. 16 in the MaxPreps Top
25 with the victory: "We are just very blessed and thankful to be
playing football. Thank the Lord everything is going well."
As well as can be expected during a global pandemic anyway.
Alabama is one of 27 states playing football in the fall, though seven more plan to join by the end of October.
leaves 16 states committed to kick off in 2021, although
Colorado last week gave its schools the option to play in either the
fall or the spring. Thus far, 125 Colorado teams have opted for the fall
and 28 in the
and Delaware, which in August opted to move football to the spring,
recently flipped to start in the fall. On Monday, Minnesota also approved a return to a traditional calendar, while Washington also looks at a fall football return.
Certainly some of the waffle has had to do with encouraging COVID-19 numbers. But the example of how high
school football and coronavirus have coexisted to date this season is another factor in the recent flips.
certainly influenced Michigan's Sept. 3 switch, 20 days after announcing plans to push back football and
other sports to the spring.
"With 25 states practicing and
playing games and another eight states ready to go in a couple of days,
it's different than three weeks ago," Michigan High School Athletic
Association Executive Director Mark Yul told the Detroit Free Press
at the time. "You're seeing states, whose COVID-19 numbers are far
worse than Michigan's. It has been, nationwide, a very successful start
to the year."
Success is relative, of course.
certainly more football game postponements this season compared to last,
though it's not definitive if the causes are solely COVID related.
data reveals less football games have been played per state in 2020
compared to 2019, as shown, for example, in Week 3 of the following
states: Alabama (445 games played in 2019, 356 in 2020), Indiana (353,
282), Tennessee (402, 279) and Utah (176, 160).
But many states,
such as Tennessee, put restrictions on the number of regular-season
games to safeguard against the virus. An endless list of other social-distancing guidelines have been suggested or mandated by every state
association in the nation, not to mention the national governing body,
They include coaches wearing masks, longer sidelines,
individual water bottles, one captain per coin toss, no team benches,
sharing towels or handshakes, along with regular, upon obsessive
sanitation and temperature taking.
Despite the extra duties,
you'll hear no complaints from Freeman or Floyd. Then again, both teams
headed into Friday 4-0 in anticipation of their televised game. For
Hewitt-Trussville, it was the second time on ESPNU this season.
"We've been corona(virus) free since June 27,"
Freeman said proudly. "We've asked everyone involved from our coaches
all the way to our student trainers to make great decisions. We spray
our helmets every day after practice before the kids go in. After
practice we again spray all lockers and equipment with a peroxide mist.
We wear masks when inside our facility. We also check temps before
everyone comes in and again as they leave.
"We play(ed) a great opponent Friday (in Hewitt-Trussville), but our biggest enemy is COVID."
Floyd said his program has taken on a similar commitment since early June.
been a roller coaster and a real challenge for the coaches for sure,"
Floyd said. "It's not easy with all the extra responsibility. But it's
been more than worth it. We want to be a source of hope for these
kids. The best part is they get to be around each other. We've been
living one day at a time and focusing on going to school, playing
football and staying safe. Football has helped a ton of kids in our
program and the state.
times in the spring and summer we had no idea what to expect. But to be
here at midseason and playing Thompson on ESPN. We're very thankful."
thankful, humble and diligent have been key in Utah's success, said
Utah High School Activities Association assistant director Jon Oglesby.
state was the first to kick off the football season on
Aug. 13, which drew much attention and even criticism. Especially when
one of its top programs Bingham had to postpone a Week 1 game with Weber
when three of its players came down with COVID.
Critics thought the early start date was reckless and dangerous.
the state held steadfast that if all followed social-distance
protocols, athletics, including a high-risk contact sport like football,
could persevere safely.
Even with the
state recording its highest coronavirus case mark of 911 on Thursday,
only a handful of teams and games have been postponed.
Of course, when games do get canceled due to coronavirus issues, it makes news. Over the weekend, 6-0 Skyline was sidelined for two weeks, the Deseret News reported, after four athletes enrolled in the school’s football class tested positive.
Despite the occasional outbreak, Oglesby said the state has been "pleasantly surprised" by the overall success of forging ahead with athletics.
"It all goes back to our coaches, players,
schools, administrators, athletic directors and parents taking the
guidelines seriously," he said.
American Fork (Utah)
athletic director Jeremy Lewis certainly did the second week of the season and gained national attention.
In the middle of the first half of his football team's
varsity game with Timpview (Provo)
, he halted play, got on a loudspeaker and told the estimated
1,000 fans in the stands to wear masks, get back to their assigned seats
and practice general social distancing guidelines laid out by state and
Otherwise, the game wouldn't go on.
has generally set the tone through the first six weeks of the season.
Yes, the Beehive State is more than halfway done with its regular
season. Texas's large school divisions 5A and 6A, along with Wisconsin
and South Carolina will play first games this week.
Though the football season has gone by relatively smooth, Oglesby said, no one in his office is taking anything for granted.
have spikes in numbers and seven-day averages just like everyone else,
and know things can change quickly," he said. "But we spent a lot of
time with state health officials, national sources, collegiate partners,
other state associations and state and political leaders building a
plan that we hoped was sustainable."
strong participation numbers and being the first state to play, Utah national visibility is
largely because of the play of the nation's No. 14 Corner Canyon (Draper)
and its quarterback Jaxson Dart
, who, besides a cool name, entered last week second in the country in both passing yards and touchdowns.
The leader in both those categories was another Utah kid, American Fork's Maddux Madsen
. In fact, nine of the top 10 national passing yardage
leaders entering Friday were from Utah, which has played at one more game than every other state.
The extra notoriety for the state is nice, Oglesby said, but not a focus.
measure our success against ourselves not other states or state
associations," he said. "We're happy to see our kids doing so well on
any level, believe me, but honestly as long as they continue to stay
safe and get the most out of the experience, that's what counts