Local athletes ‘can’t wait’ to get started playing fall sports

BPS must still approve Aug. 24 start date voted on by FHSAA


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Viera High rising senior Zak Sedaros said he is "excited to get back on the field with my brothers and play the game that I love." following Friday's vote by the FHSAA Board of Directors that will allow teams to start practicing Aug. 24.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

They have been working all summer long, just waiting to find out when they might actually be able to take the field, the court, or the course again.

Well, it looks like Brevard County athletes may finally have their answer.

The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Board of Directors voted 11-5 on Friday to approve Aug. 24 as the first day of practice for fall sports with the first games to be potentially played on Sept. 4.

Brevard Public Schools has yet to weigh in on the matter. The district has the final say over when fall sports can start and whether there will be any travel restrictions that could mean teams must play a county-only schedule. The district will also decide whether fans will be allowed to attend games.

Until BPS makes those announcements, players and coaches are gearing up in anticipation of practicing on Aug. 24 after the original start date of July 27 was pushed back due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am really excited to get back on the field with my brothers and play the game that I love,” Viera High rising senior football player Zak Sedaros wrote in a Twitter message.

“I think this extended break that we have had has been good for us because we have had time to really come together as a team. I am thanking God for allowing me and the rest of my seniors to have our final season. I can’t wait to put on the pads again.”

Holy Trinity quarterback Davin Wydner, a rising junior who transferred into the school following last season, is also excited about making his debut with the Tigers and was happy with the FHSAA vote.

“I truly believe it’s the right thing to do,” Wydner wrote in a Twitter message. “I can’t wait to go out there and compete with my guys and see if we can do something special at Holy Trinity. We’ve worked unbelievably hard all summer and the FHSAA has given us a chance to do what we love to do.

“Just like our parents had to get back out there and work again in order to support all of our families, we now have a chance to go out there and do what some of us want to do in college and beyond.

“… As players, we need to do our part and take all precautions that are advised so that we can play our season in its entirety. I can’t wait to get into the pads and see what we can accomplish for our senior class, our coaching staff, and the entire Holy Trinity family.”

Friday’s FHSAA vote was the third taken by organization within the past month. The board originally voted to maintain the original July 27 start date, then voted again three days later to push it back to at least Aug. 24.

Board members had three options to choose from Friday. Option 1 allowed practice to start Aug. 24 while the remaining two options would have pushed back the date even further. Option 3, which also received a lot of consideration leading up to the meeting, would not only have pushed everything back to November, but meant a condensed season for all high school sports.

The main concern, of course, was the safety of the students in the wake of the pandemic that, according to numbers put out by the state, has resulted in more than 563,000 cases and 9,276 deaths throughout the state.

Dr. Jennifer Maynard, chairperson of the FHSAA’S Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), said that while some areas of the state are improving, others are getting worse. She recommended pushing back the start of fall sports until at least Sept. 28 because no county meets all of the criteria the SMAC has recommended.

That includes a two-week decrease in reported daily cases and a positivity rate of below 5 percent (only Hamilton County is below that threshold, Maynard said).

“My fear, from a medical perspective, is until this virus is given the respect it deserves to quiet down, introducing sports only adds fuel to the fire,” Dr. Maynard said.

Both Governor Ron DeSantis and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio both stated recently that they would like to see high school sports come back sooner rather than later. There was also a petition with more than 40,000 signatures put together by parents of a Cambridge Christian football player urging the board to adopt the Aug. 24 start date.

“I’m happy they’re giving us an option to play now,” Viera football coach Derek Smith said.

One significant amendment to Friday’s vote is that school districts will have until Sept. 18 to opt out of the state series and create their own 2020-21 sports schedules with the help of the FHSAA staff.

That will create more flexibility for schools, particularly in South Florida, that have been hit hard by the coronavirus and will likely not be ready to play by Sept. 4. There has also been talk that counties like Broward, Dade and Palm Beach might leave the FHSAA and form their own association in order to play when they feel it is appropriate.

As tough as things are down south, the coaches and players in Brevard seem ready to go and are not taking anything for granted when it comes to the coronavirus.

“Now everyone has to make sure they insist and enforce proper safety procedures,” Holy Trinity football coach Nate Hooks Jr. wrote in a Twitter message.

“With the nature of football, every player and coach are accustomed to taking risks. There’s always the possibility that someone ‘could’ be injured. That’s why, in our sport, there’s an ambulance at games.

“So, with this pandemic, we have to do what we’ve always done -- take proper measures to reduce and eliminate risk!!! I’m sure the boys are excited!!”

They certainly are. And you can bet that also holds true for students who take part in volleyball, golf, cross country, bowling and swimming.

Should BPS give the go-ahead, they could all be starting their seasons on Aug. 24.

“At the beginning of the day, I would have said it was 50/50 on which option the FHSAA would choose,” Holy Trinity athletic director James Phillips wrote in an email.

“It was never going to be an easy, or popular decision. For most of us involved in high school sports the uncertainty of, if or when, made planning difficult. (FHSAA board member) Sue Tortora was exactly right when she said everybody is crying out for a start date.

“Well, now we know and students can look forward to being in the pool, on the course, on the field or in the gymnasium this fall. Holy Trinity will continue to follow all safety protocols in hopes that all student-athletes in every program get to complete their season.”