By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports staff writer
BROOKSVILLE- When you go down the list of Tampa Bay area counties and take a look at their prep sports athletic starting dates, they all seem to align with one another.
Hillsborough County was the first one to announce that they would be starting on August 24th after the Florida High School Athletic Association made its final ruling on when fall sports practices could begin. After much deliberation in Pasco County, county athletic director Matt Wicks made the move to have sports start on August 24th as well. Pinellas County also decided the 24th would be the date they would begin their fall practices.
There’s one county that is still shuffling through all the data daily to make the most informed decision for their student-athletes, coaches and that’s Hernando County. The county has not officially announced a start date yet, but early indications point to Hernando beginning fall practices sometime in September, which has drawn the dismay of some coaches throughout the county.
Springstead athletic director Dustin Kupcik said the county’s thinking behind starting later than others lies more within the daily data they have been compiling in order to make the best decision possible. Another reason why Hernando County will likely wait a couple more weeks to start back up again is to see how schools deal with COVID-19 outbreaks and possible athletic delays to the scheduling of practices and games.
Many schools around Tampa Bay Area are planning on playing their first game on September 11th, but in Hernando County, that could be pushed back towards the end of the month or early October. Zephyrhills Christian, a private school in Pasco County, will be playing its first game on September 4th against Central Florida Christian in Zephyrhills. That should give many around the area a first-hand glimpse of what high school football will look like during a pandemic.
Hernando County may also be leaning toward a later start date in order to align themselves with their neighbors to the north in Citrus County so they can unify the Gulf Coast 8 (GC8) conference. The GC8 was created within the last couple of years, which is made up of the eight public high schools in Citrus and Hernando. With the eight schools, the thinking is they could get a seven-game regular season and a possible conference championship game, excluding them from playing in the FHSAA’s state series for 2020.
That has not been a shared sentiment by a number of high school football players around Hernando County, as the outcry on social media has been accompanied by the hashtag ‘#LetUsPlay’ all over Twitter. The thought process of being more cautious than full steam ahead could backfire or prove to be the right move, but either way, there are no winners in this case when it comes to the right or wrong answer. It’s all about safety and to this point, nothing has been proven just yet on how to make that happen on the high school level.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.