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LHSAA votes to move forward with football

LAPLACE — The eight-game 2020 high school football season will commence Oct. 1-3, one week earlier than expected. 

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Committee convened Wednesday and voted 22-1 to begin contact sports in LHSAA Competition Stage 1.  Following the vote, football teams were permitted to begin practice in full pads on Thursday, Sept. 10. 

On August 25, Governor John Bel Edwards announced the extension of Louisiana’s Phase II Reopening protocols until September 11, 2020. The LHSAA initially planned to hold off on contact sports until entering Phase IV, and goal began to look less than ideal for fall football.

LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine met with the Louisiana House of Representatives on Friday, Sept. 4 and made a plan for football to begin in October. That plan was finalized this week with the vote from the LHSAA Executive Committee. 

The LHSAA stated that it cannot overturn any government order disallowing the start of contact sports in their parish.

The approved football schedule includes a scrimmage (Sept. 24-26), eight games (starting with what would have been week 3, Oct. 1-3) with a 32-team playoff bracket (beginning Nov. 27-28). The 2020 Prep Classic will be held on Dec. 26-28 in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The LHSAA voted to limit stadiums to 50 percent capacity. The committee also stated that select and non-select teams will play in the same championship bracket and venue. 

“It’s exciting that the LHSAA can contribute to some sort of normality for the students and schools.” said Executive Director, Eddie Bonine. 

St. Charles Catholic Coach Frank Monica said he was glad to hear the season start date was pushed up. Now it is time to set things in motion and build momentum.

“It’s cut what we thought was going to be our off-season in half, and now we have to accelerate everything we’re doing,” Monica said.

“It’s smart that they’re allowing a scrimmage. I commend them for being proactive with this thing because that’s what kids want and the community wants. I was surprised with the big 32-team bracket because I don’t think that’s needed. It’s a little frivolous as far as we’re concerned, but I think they wanted to keep things intact. They’re accomplished that. I’m happy for the kids’ sake that they get to keep a senior season and play eight games. There was talk about a seven-game or six-game season. I’m pleased there will be a season.”

Riverside Academy Coach Kevin Dizer shared in the excitement. He said the young athletes have been diligent at practice and understanding of circumstances outside of their control.

 I think the kids deserve a chance to play. Coaches have followed all of the protocols throughout the summer. The kids deserve to be rewarded,” Dizer said. “As far as starting in early October, it doesn’t make a difference to us when the season starts. When we can play, we’ll play. We’re just happy to have a chance.”

West St. John Coach Brandon Walters feels both hopeful and apprehensive about the season that lies ahead. 

 I’m excited about it. I think it gives the kids an opportunity to play, and they’re pretty excited about that,” Walters said. “Our seniors last year didn’t get to finish the season how they wanted to. This gives our kids an opportunity to continue on with their seasons.”

Walters is also aware of the risks that come with contact sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have a little apprehension about getting back to it. I just want to make sure everybody is safe. It definitely is a concern because this sport is all contact,” he said.

The LHSAA staff has developed fall sport-specific event guidelines with help from Dr. Stewart, from the Tulane Sports and the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, for schools when conducting interscholastic competition. Competition guidelines will be posted in the near future.

Football is not the only sport kicking off this fall; cross country, swimming and volleyball began competition in Phase II. 

For more information on the LHSAA, visit Lhsaa.org or follow @LHSAAsports on Twitter and Facebook.