By JOSH FRYE
After months of uncertainty, the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and the Alabama Independent School Association (AISA) have given the green light for the 2020 high school football season.
According to AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese, AHSAA plans on having a full football schedule. The association released on July 22 an approved plan for all fall sports, including football, volleyball, cross country and swimming/diving.
Association officials stressed that the plan is not set in stone due to the ever-changing Covid-19 situation.
According to the AHSAA website, several modifications have been made to the 2020 football rule book. For instance, team boxes (the area on the sidelines where players and coaches may stand) will be extended on both sides of the field to the 10-yard lines to allow social distancing. Coaches will be restricted to the area between the 25-yard lines.
Cloth facemasks will also be permissible, but plastic face shields covering the players’ football helmets will not be allowed unless the shield is integrated into the helmet and clear in color. Players will also be allowed to wear football gloves but must adhere to guidelines put forth in the rulebook.
The biggest change will come in the form of charged timeouts. Charged timeouts and authorized conferences have been extended to a maximum of two minutes. The new rule changes also state that it is now possible for more than one coach to be involved in conferencing.
Intermission between periods and scoring plays has also been extended to a maximum of two minutes, and pre-game coin tosses are now limited to only one team captain on the 50-yard line. The same procedure will also be enforced for overtime coin tosses.
The new rules also provide a guide of best practices, which includes maintaining 6-feet social distancing. Individuals should not share uniforms, towels and other equipment, and the ball should be cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest.
Officials will have the option of using an electronic whistle and wearing face coverings.
All players, officials and team staff should have their own beverage containers; handshakes will be suspended during pre-game and post-game ceremonies; handwashing by all individuals is encouraged as much as possible; and non-essential personnel should be restricted from the field during contests.
Dressing rooms for players, officials and staff should be monitored to allow social distancing when possible.
According to Escambia County High School head coach Scott Mason, the Blue Devils took to the field Monday afternoon in helmets and shorts. Full-pad practices will begin on Monday, August 3.
“We are very excited to get back,” Mason said. “It has been a very trying summer, and the guys have impressed me. They have responded like champs.”
Mason also stressed that his team this year is much different than those he has coached in the past. He explained that the virus situation seems to have brought the team together.
ECHS will host the season opener against Bayside Academy on August 20.
For the Alabama Independent School Association (AISA), football season, along with all other fall sports, will be held as planned.
The AISA has reviewed numerous plans over the past few months but a comprehensive contingency plan is not yet in place.
According to a press release from AISA executive director Michael McLendon on July 23, the independent school association will not be allowing any jamborees or tournaments until further notice.
Practices for football and volleyball started on Monday, July 27, and AISA cross country teams will resume practices on August 3.
Florida school’s situation is just a bit different. Escambia County (Fla.) Superintendent of Education Malcom Thomas announced last week that the practice start for all fall sports programs is being delayed to Monday, August 17, and school will be back in session on August 24.
Thomas also said that all sports schedules will be adjusted and released at a later date.
According to Northview High School head coach Wes Summerford, the first season game for the Chiefs will occur on September 10 or 11.
“It has been crazy,” Summerford said. “The kids have been optimistic through everything and have stayed positive. We are all excited to see what this season will bring, despite the changes due to the pandemic.”
Summerford, first-year head coach, said the situation has created a lot of work.
“We have been cleaning and sanitizing constantly,” he said. “Workouts have been broken down into segments and groups, and masks have been worn almost the entire time.”
Another change that has been made around NHS to ensure student safety are water fountains.
Summerford said the school is in the process of replacing traditional water fountains with fountains that will allow water bottles to be refilled.
“Each player will be required to have his own water bottle,” Summerford said. “This will include players, myself and the staff. The practice will not only be continued during practices, but also during game time.”
With the ever-changing situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this football season will be filled with changes. As these changes develop, Atmore News will keep you informed as our local youth get set to take the field.