2020 H.S. football season shortened by one week

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The start of the 2020 high school football season has been delayed. Games are now allowed to be played starting on September 3. WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan made the announcement Friday at Governor Jim Justice’s regular COVID-19 press conference.

In a normal year, teams have an 11-week window to play as many as 10 games. This year, teams will have a 10-week window to play 10 games. As a result, many coaches and athletic directors are trying to match up ‘bye weeks’ to round out their schedule.

“It is the Thursday night prior to the first week of school,” Dolan said. “We think it will be a great way to bring the community back together. Everybody will be in full swing by the time we walk into school that next Tuesday. We think it is a great opportunity for our kids and for our schools to be the center of their community again.”

Official, mandatory high school practices for all sports (football, cheerleading, golf, soccer, cross country and volleyball) will now begin on August 17.

Those practices were originally scheduled to begin on August 3 for all sports with the exception of volleyball. Volleyball was slated to start on August 10.

WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan (left) and Gov. Jim Justice.

First competition dates for each sport are as follows:

  • Golf – August 24
  • Volleyball – September 2
  • Cross country – September 2
  • Cheer – September 2
  • Soccer – September 2
  • Football – September 3

Football games were originally scheduled to begin on August 24. Most teams were slated to open their seasons August 27-29. Governor Justice has delayed the opening of schools statewide to September 8.

“As we have watched the numbers that continue to grow, I think what we are here to do today is emphasize that we need to do our part to stop this,” Dolan said. “The ball is small right now. But as that ball rolls, it is going to get out of control and hard to handle. We have an opportunity right now with the masks to be able to control it.”

Dolan acknowledges that if positive COVID cases rise in a particular community, games may have to be canceled during the season.

“If a team is shut down, then it would be a ‘no contest’ and there would not be implications. We expect it is possible there will be places and times that people will miss a game or two as we move forward.”

Several key football matchups could now fall off schedules entirely:

  • Bluefield vs. Graham, Va. (Week 1)
  • Spring Valley at Cabell Midland (Week 1)
  • Capital at Parkersburg South (Week 1)
  • Highland Springs, Va. at Martinsburg (Week 1)

Dolan also confirmed that the Phase III offseason workouts underway in many counties statewide will be allowed to continue until the end of their three-week window.

Individual counties will set attendance policies for home contests, whether or not to have full or limited capacity.

“I would imagine they might be different from county to county based on what your level of infection rate is.”

Football teams traditionally have four weeks of official preseason practices. That window will be reduced by a week this year and as a result, many teams will likely opt to schedule just one scrimmage instead of two.

Dolan also advises that junior varsity and freshman football teams should be kept in different practice groups while they go throughout preseason and regular season activities.

“I would try to keep them as separate as possible. I would try to keep my units consistent and separate. So that if there is an outbreak on one of the other teams, it doesn’t affect your varsity, and vice versa.”

In normal years, football teams must play a minimum of eight games to be eligible for the playoffs. That could likely change for this season.

“We will address that at the next board meeting. I think there will be teams that struggle to get their eight games. Because if you have a lot of out-of-state games, and they have restrictions, you could have trouble.”

Dolan added that it is likely that the requirement to play six games in your class or higher to be playoff eligible will likely be waived for the 2020 season.

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