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Fall football season given new schedule including a two week delay

The Mississippi High School Activities Association has announced football, and other fall sports, will take place this year, but with a two week delay on the start of practices and games.

That means that high school football programs have been hard at work this summer preparing for the upcoming season.

Pearl River Central

Head Coach Jacob Owen said because the team lost spring training the last couple of months consisted mostly of conditioning and educating players.

“Our focus this summer has been a lot of teaching. We missed spring ball, so I felt like it was important to get on the field as much as possible in small groups and do a lot of teaching,” Owen said.

Owen said his staff and players were thrilled that their season was only going to be delayed, not cancelled.

The athletes had been hard at work training and game planning during the summer period, and a cancelled season would’ve seen that work go to waste.

“It took the weight of the world off your shoulders. You don’t think about it while you’re here and working, but when you get home and sit down after supper it goes through your mind, ‘What if we don’t have a season?’” Owen said.

The decision by the MHSAA was made so that there would be ample time to make alterations to the plan depending on how the situation regarding COVID-19 changes.

Nothing is set in stone, but Owen said it was smart to have a delay in the season in order to allow more adaptation by the programs as school restarts.

“Everything you do is going to have changes to it, so I think that two-week period push back will allow everybody to adjust to that before starting practice,” Owen said.

Picayune

A common theme for the programs is that attendance is high after the athletes had to spend months inside for quarantining purposes.

Head Coach Cody Stogner said even with the sun beating down on the players during the summer, the opportunity to be back on the field is enough of a motivation to see an increase in effort and excitement.

“We’ve had a really great summer so far. Good attendance, the kids are working hard and they’re excited to be out there. It’s hot outside, but they continue to show up and work hard,” Stogner said.

So far workouts have been non-contact, but in mid to late August players will break out the pads as the team begins preparing for its first game of the season against Meridian on Sept. 4.

The athletes will be able to get accustomed to being in full gear again, while the staff will be able to evaluate players’ physicality and how they fit into the team’s plans.

“We’ll be able to put pads on and that’s what we’re really looking forward to. We’ll start cracking heads and see who’s not scared of contact,” Stogner said.

The practices have been held without contact or full gear as the athletes reacclimatize themselves, but Stogner said his players understand the expectations when the pads are on.

“We’re fortunate to have a great community and a great group of kids. They know what to expect when we start to get after it, what kind of effort to give and what’s expected of them,” Stogner said.

Poplarville

The Poplarville football program has had its athletes stay active over the summer with an emphasis on getting stronger and faster.

Head Coach Jay Beech said the delay will be beneficial for his players because it’ll allow for more conditioning to take place prior to the start of padded practices.

“I think it’ll help out. We’ve had all summer to get ready and now they’ve given us two weeks, which will give us a little more time to get in shape,” Beech said.

The team lost multiple games because of the delay, which may be made up at some point in the season if the team can schedule an opponent for their bye week.

The loss of the pre-district games, along with no spring training, means there will be more of an emphasis on evaluation during the early portion of the season.

“We’ll have to answer a lot of questions in those non district games even they do count (towards our) record. We’ll still be having to evaluate through those first two or three games to see what our best line up is going to be come district,” Beech said.