By Mike Ridaught
Twitter – @ThePrepZone
Today is the first allowable date to begin high school sports in Florida. Safety will be the No. 1 concern.
“In order to make the season as safe from Covid19 as possible we will be temperature checking before practice daily, limiting access to the locker room and making sure the kids are sanitizing before and after practice,” said St. Francis Catholic Academy football coach Scott McDaniel. “As coaches, we will be masked at practice, as I have been this summer, and sanitizer will be used on the practice equipment daily.”
Buchholz (Gainesville) will host a Kickoff Classic against Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) on Sept. 4. The visiting Conquerors won four straight Class 3A state titles from 2013-2016.
“It is really important to these high school players to do everything they can do to insure we get to play football,” said Buchholz football coach Mark Whittemore. “They have been very compliant and respective of the safety measures that have been put in place. The excitement level for the season is at an all-time high.”
P.K. Yonge football coach Marcus McDonald and the Blue Wave will host Trinity Catholic (Ocala) on Friday, Sept. 4.
“I know a lot of teams have been enforcing Covid safety measures and the results have been promising,” he said. “I speak for several coaches when I say that our biggest concerns are returning to schools that might not have the means to reduce the spread. And the temptation to socialize with friends and abandoning safety protocols.”
Newberry football coach Ed Johnson said his players will complete the Covid questionnaire and have temperatures taken before every practice.
“We will work to stay as socially distanced as possible during the practice and in the locker rooms, while also providing opportunities throughout the day to wash and sanitize all equipment that is used,” said Johnson, whose team will open up the regular season at Hawthorne on Friday, Sept. 4.
P.K. Yonge swimming & diving coach Kara Dawson, who said she was surprised that the FHSAA went against the advice of medical experts and voted to start the season so soon, said her goal is to provide the best experience for her athletes under less than ideal circumstances.
“Luckily, the CDC and other medical associations tell us that the virus cannot survive in chlorinated water,” said Dawson, who noted it is still unclear how swim meets will work this season given safety restrictions. “Safety protocols for swimming include limiting the number of swimmers in the water at one time, not having a team water cooler, wearing masks to and from practice, social distancing on deck and limiting locker room visits to emergencies only.”
One thing that all coaches seem to agree upon is the excitement to start.
“I think it’s great that we get to start practice,” said McDonald. “The players have worked very hard to earn the chance to make this work.”
Johnson, who made the state playoffs in his first year as head coach of the Panthers last season, agreed.
“We are just excited to get started and have some definitive answers on playing dates which gives our kids something to look forward to,” he said. “It’s going to be a season like never before, but we all are dealing with the same circumstances and have to make the best of it.”
St. Francis, which will travel to St. Joseph (St. Augustine) on Friday, Sept. 4, has been open for three days.
According to McDaniel, the protocols they are using in the building “have been readily accepted by the kids, so I am confident our practice protocols will too.”
“The kids are thrilled that we get to start,” he said. “Many of them are kids whose favorite sport is football, so they were worried that it might not happen. I too am very excited to begin, although I have to admit a little anxious too. There are so many variables in play for the season to happen.”
The Bell volleyball team will be utilizing bleachers on both sides of the court, instead of just one side, to allow for social distancing. They highly recommend that fans wear masks while inside the gym, plus they have their own team protocols in place.
“We absolutely promote the 6′ social distancing in practice and make sure we sanitize the balls throughout practice,” said head coach Drue Barry. “And the girls are using hand sanitizer often.”
The Bulldogs, who were Class 1A state runners-up two years ago, travel to Union County (Lake Butler) for their season opener on Friday, Sept. 4.
“We are extremely excited to get the season started,” said Barry. “The girls have been working out and conditioning all summer and by following our guidelines by administration we haven’t had any issues. The girls, especially the seniors were bummed about the original start date getting pushed back but they understood the concept on controlling what we can control and letting everything else work out.”
Despite the late start, Bell will still play a 20-game schedule.
“They (team) kept an extremely upbeat attitude and kept working hard so they are ready now that Monday starts the official start to the season,” said Barry. “We had a great schedule put in place but ours like everyone else’s took a big hit.”
Russell Holley, who was the defensive coordinator last season at Bronson, takes over as head coach for Seth Stebbins.
“We wear masks in the weight room, locker rooms, and classrooms,” noted Holley. “We also wear them on the bus with the windows down. We check their temperature upon check-in and we also limit the number of players in weight room, and locker rooms.”
Bronson will host Ocala Christian Academy next Friday.
“I am so excited that hopefully all of the hard work we have put in will finally be rewarded,” said Holley. “Starting new beginnings and new traditions at a new school are always difficult and now we can finally put the new Bronson on display.”