Hurricane Irma’s path through Manatee County caused minimal damage compared to the destruction wrought as a Category 4 storm in the Florida Keys.
The high school football season, though, took a bigger hit with various school districts shutting down for the week, eliminating football games this Friday as a result.
On Tuesday, the Florida High School Athletic Association responded with a news release addressing the Hurricane Irma aftermath affecting high school football after receiving a high call volume regarding the sport.
In the release, the FHSAA reiterated a stance put together prior to Irma’s arrival that players, their families, coaches and school officials’ safety is their top concern.
When it comes to scheduling, though, the FHSAA said in the news release that they plan to maintain the original scheduled season dates in order to cause the least impact to other non-athletic activities.
“Due to widespread and varying levels of impact from Hurricane Irma, the FHSAA has chosen not to uniformly cancel, postpone and/or prohibit play,” the FHSAA news release stated.
The FHSAA’s statement also left the decision to practice and/or play up to each individual school and/or school district.
That didn’t sit well with Manatee County supervisor of athletics Jason Montgomery or Braden River High head football coach Curt Bradley, especially when each Friday this season has featured delays, postponements or cancellations locally.
“I’m a little disappointed in the FHSAA,” Montgomery said. “... I would have been much in favor of adding one week to the regular season to give people the opportunity to make up some of these games.”
Bradley said the situation is a mess. He added player safety is important and the FHSAA’s decision to leave it up to districts and schools isn’t quite the right way to do it.
“We’re talking about now having to play on a Friday, a Monday and a Friday,” Bradley said. “At least when they do that in the NFL, they go Sunday, Thursday and then they’re off for 10 days. We’d be turning around and playing three games in a week. That would be insane.”
Bradley’s Pirates have played one full game, the Week 1 victory over Chatfield (Littleton, Colo.) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista. They took a 21-7 lead into halftime against Clearwater High on Sept. 1 when lightning postponed the game to a later date.
Bradley said they rescheduled it for Monday, Oct. 30. That and the expected large turnout for the long-awaited non-district clash with Manatee High are postponed games that could provide major playoff points.
The FHSAA’s points system takes the total and divides it by the number of games. An eight-game minimum is required, but FHSAA executive director George Tomyn can waive that requirement on a case-by-case basis.
And this week’s slate, which featured Braden River at Palmetto, Southeast at Bayshore, Lithia Newsome at Manatee and Venice at Lakewood Ranch, was the first one for district games, which take precedent over non-district matchups.
The FHSAA’s news release on Tuesday opened up practicing this Sunday as a one-time option. However, Manatee County programs can’t practice until Monday when schools reopen. The school district announced Monday night that schools were closed until Monday, Sept. 18 after assessing damage to schools from Hurricane Irma.
“We’re trying to clean up and tons of people without power and everything else, so our teams won’t practice until Monday,” Montgomery said. “Now you’re asking teams for a district schedule to try to make up district games to have to play two games in a week at some point down the road. With our schools with as many games as we’ve missed due to lightning and everything else, you’re taking financial impact as well.”
While the public schools are closed until Monday, three private school programs are still in line to play this week.
Bradenton Christian at Out-of-Door Academy was still set for Friday at 7 p.m., and the Saint Stephen’s at St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep game was scheduled for some time this weekend as of Tuesday evening.
One Manatee County private school program, IMG Academy, won’t play this week.
The IMG White team’s road trip to Fort Myers Gateway Charter is canceled, while IMG’s nationally ranked Blue team’s game with St. John’s (Washington D.C.) College High is postponed. The two teams are attempting to find a reschedule date, according to a news release.