Rain and lightning have ravaged the first three weeks of the 2017 high school football regular season, but that’s nothing compared to what’s coming with Hurricane Irma.
Football – and sports – are supposed to be fun and a distraction.
However, Irma’s threat is real for Floridians and high school football should be the last thing on anyone’s priority list.
That said, Manatee County and school officials deserve a huge pat on the back for staying in front of the catastrophic hurricane in pushing the Week 3 games to Thursday and then choosing to postpone or cancel things altogether.
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Whether a game is played is irrelevant to giving players the time to evacuate or prepare for Irma, which is something Arkansas State fans should take note of after taking jabs at the Miami Hurricanes for canceling their trip for this weekend’s game.
And throughout this rainy high school season, school officials and referees are doing their best to put safety – for players, coaches and fans – above everything when monitoring lightning strikes and resuming games.
On Thursday, Palmetto and Bradenton Christian became the only Manatee County programs to play two full games while in Florida. IMG Academy’s Blue team is 2-0, but their games were held in Arizona and California, respectively.
Everyone else has played one full game, except Southeast. The Seminoles are 1-0, but only played one half in last week’s victory over Sarasota.
So what does the bevy of postponements and cancellations mean for the Florida High School Athletic Association?
There’s an eight-game minimum requirement for playoff consideration to non-district champions, but FHSAA executive director George Tomyn can waive it.
And he should, if necessary, considering how much the weather is wreaking havoc with schedules. Making up one game later in the season on a random Monday is one thing, but asking teams to jockey schedules to play multiple Monday makeup games is ridiculous. The short weeks are dangerous to player safety.
The solution is to waive the eight-game minimum requirement and start pushing the season back a couple weeks.
Starting in early September is a better option. Every year, there are delays, cancellations and postponements with lightning and torrential rain throughout the state.
Each week this season in Manatee County, including the preseason Kickoff Classics, has featured lightning and rain delays.
The state championship games are set for Orlando’s Camping World Stadium, which was previously known as the Citrus Bowl.
If scheduling there is an issue with the high school season’s playoffs pushing up against college football’s bowl and conference championship season, then move the state championship games back to the Swamp at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
The last four years Gainesville was the state title game venue (1999-2000 and 2003-04), an average of 29,870 fans attended the games.
That’s more than the average of 28,174 fans who have gone to the state’s more centralized location of Orlando’s Citrus Bowl to see state title games the past four years.
So that’s reason enough that fan support will be similar, meaning teams that make it that far are most likely going to travel and there isn’t going to be a huge increase in casual fan support with Orlando compared to Gainesville.
It’s time to push the season back a bit.
In a game muddled with 21 penalties for 175 yards between Palmetto and Riverview, the Tigers found a budding star in running back Eddravian Butler on Thursday.
The sophomore ran hard and fast in breaking tackles, gaining short yards when losing yards seemed certain and bursting past defenders for big plays in Thursday’s 11-10 loss to the Rams.
Butler shined in a junior varsity Week 1 game against Chatfield (Littleton, Colo.) during Palmetto’s trip to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista. That performance earned him a varsity promotion, and he debuted in a win against Manatee.
But his breakout game came Thursday against Riverview, when he tallied 105 yards on 10 carries.
The future is bright for Butler and the Tigers.
Coach of the week
Need a break from the wall-to-wall Irma preparations? Go to buccaneers.com/community/coach-of-the-week.html and vote for the coach of the week, where Palmetto’s Dave Marino is a finalist along with three other coaches from the Tampa Bay area.
Voting ends at noon Saturday. Marino is up for the honor after Palmetto defeated county rival Manatee for the first time since 2004 during Week 2. Marino is going against Riverview Spoto’s Dave Searfoss, Wesley Chapel Wiregrass Ranch’s Mark Kantor and Largo’s Marcus Paschal for the award.