By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports staff writer
The votes are in and the Florida High School Athletic Association has voted to restart high school sports practices as of August 24th. The meeting among the board of directors took place Friday morning and after conversing for over two hours in regards to the restart, the new state start date had been approved but there will obviously be push back from various counties.
There is an opt-out date of September 18th to leave playing in the state series for the 2020 season, as schools will resume practices and adjust schedules as they see fit. For everything in Hernando County, however, no stance has really changed as far as when the five public schools will be back on the field. Hernando County Schools suspended sports indefinitely with no target date.
What has made everything very difficult with the focus on figuring out whether high school sports should be played or not has been the heavy push by those affiliated with high school football around the southeast. Prep football reigns supreme and many states in the south plan on having football take place as scheduled. Both neighboring states Alabama and Georgia are continuing on with playing high school sports this fall.
Florida was the one remaining state in the south that was still trying to figure out what plan of attack they wanted to go with for the restart. Options were laid out from kicking off games in September to pushing the season back to December. Everything that has been laid out on the table is no longer in play with the official vote finally coming to fruition. Now comes decisions on by schools around the state on how to deal with fans at games and what the protocols will be.
One bright spot was the first high school football game played in the country since the pandemic began when Davis took on Herriman in Utah on Thursday night. The game was streamed live and the outlook and results were good, as coaches wore masks on the sideline and the game was held to a 25 percent capacity. In a stadium that could hold 3,800, Herriman hosted 950 fans at the contest. Fans were mandated to social distance and wear masks at the game.
The game helped give many high school football programs around the country a good look at how football will have to be played out this fall, with the coronavirus pandemic still sweeping the nation. Calls for mandated mask-wearing outside and indoors have come into play, but being at sporting events in Florida and what will need to be provided hasn’t been made clear as of yet.
Hillsborough County will begin practicing fall sports on August 24th, while Pasco County looks to stick with their September 7th date as to when they will start official practices. Citrus County has yet to announce what their plans are in regards to starting practices. Hernando may start feeling pressure from surrounding counties to change their indefinite policy and set a date. What that date might be can vary based on the neighboring counties, but rest assured many in Hernando County want to see high school sports back up and running. It’s a matter of when they will make the announcement.
For local coaches in Hernando County, the waiting game is a frustrating one as they have continued workouts with no knowledge of if a season will follow the hard work put in on the practice field. Hernando High School is in the middle of breaking in a new head coach in former Hillsborough High School defensive coordinator Earl Garcia III. That transition alone has been a difficult one nonetheless.
Switch over to Springstead High School, as they reintroduced Bill Vonada to the program who is stepping in as assistant coach. Vonada assisted last season at Weeki Wachee High School. Garofano and Vonada will be tasked with replacing several key seniors and trying to figure out who the new playmakers will be. Coming off a playoff appearance in 2019, the Eagles will be hell-bent to keep up the success.
At Nature Coast Technical High School, Cory Johns is itching at the bit to get his team back up and rolling as they have ample talent and a possible road to another district championship and postseason berth. Johns has been an advocate via social media to see the return of athletics and he like most would love to see the return of Friday Night Lights to the Shark Tank.
Both Central and Weeki Wachee are in very similar situations at their respective schools as each head coach is heading into their second full season at the helm. For Central’s Rob Walden, he potentially is without running back Contae Cason, who publicly said he will be transferring schools this summer. At Weeki Wachee, Chris Cook continues the philosophy change as the Hornets continue to sharpen up learning the run-base offense.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.