By Earl Vaughan Jr.
Off-season skill conditioning workouts are in progress for North Carolina high school football teams as they prepare for the delayed start of their season that was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The postponed season begins on Feb. 8, with the first games statewide scheduled on Feb. 26.
Football presents bigger challenges than other sports with regard to COVID-19. The biggest is the larger numbers involved, and the test coaches and athletes face observing a variety of COVID-19 protocols to keep their practice and playing environment as free from spreading the disease as possible.
We asked the county’s senior high school football coaches what their biggest concerns are as they begin preparation for their delayed season.
First-year E.E. Smith coach Andrew Karcher is trying to be positive, saying it’s finally good to see a light at the end of the tunnel while admitting football will be different this season.
“It takes more planning and preparation on our part, but we are working to ensure that we are meeting all the protocols put in place,’’ he said. “We are excited about the official start date approaching.’’
David Lovette of Gray’s Creek voiced a concern that is likely shared by many coaches: numbers. “We have several kids playing basketball and swimming, which makes it hard to get a feel for what we have,’’ he said.
South View’s Rodney Brewington is concerned about what happens if a team has players test positive for COVID-19. “This creates a scenario that you could lose kids weekly who could potentially miss a third of the season,’’ he said.
The NCHSAA’s COVID-19 guidelines limit high school football teams to seven regular-season games.
Terry Sanford’s Bruce McClelland thinks that after a year of dealing with COVID-19, some may have tired of making sure all the safety protocols are observed. He also fears an increase in injuries caused by lost time in both workouts and weightlifting.
Westover’s Ernest King adds to that list the lack of preseason scrimmages to help teams prepare for game conditions.
Pine Forest coach Bill Sochovka worries how the players will adjust to wearing both masks and mouthpieces, which will hinder breathing considerably.
He is concerned the players won’t get enough time to adjust before returning to competition.
On a positive note, Cape Fear’s Jake Thomas said many states surrounding North Carolina completed the fall football season safely with no reports of major complications from COVID-19.
“I just want kids to have the opportunity to play the game they love and compete,’’ he said.
Jack Britt’s Brian Randolph said he’s overjoyed to be back on the field, but he tempered that feeling with a warning. “We have put a major priority on following all protocols that have been put in place by the state (and the local school system), because one life lost is one too many,’’ he said.
If there’s anyone in Cumberland County who can appreciate how Sarah Thomas feels, it is Christina Snead.
Thomas will become the first female official to call the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. Snead, who has been a female high school football official with the Southeastern Athletic Officials Association, became the first female football official in North Carolina history to call an NCHSAA state championship game in 2017.
Snead was part of the crew that officiated the 2-AA title game between Hibriten and East Duplin, with Hibriten winning 16-14.
Snead called Thomas’ selection to call the Super Bowl a great accomplishment. She remembered that when she was chosen for the title game in 2017 she felt it was one more stepping stone in her career as an official.
“I thought at that time I had worked hard,’’ Snead said. “I was grateful.’’
Snead feels doors are continuing to open for female officials, which is important at a time when there is a shortage of officials ,and they are needed across the spectrum of sports to provide adequate coverage for all the games.
“No matter if you are man or woman, we need strong officials,’’ she said.
Congratulations to E.E. Smith’s Octavious Smith, who qualified for the N.C. High School Athletic Assocation 3-A cross country meet, which is scheduled Saturday morning at Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville.
Smith was the ninth individual finisher at the 3-A Mid-East regional last week at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, recording a time of 16:23.96.
Jalesty Washington of Gray’s Creek and Kara Walker of Terry Sanford won the major volleyball awards for the Patriot Athletic Conference. Washington was honored as Coach of the Year with Walker taking Player of the Year.
Chosen to the all-conference first team were E.E. Smith’s Ja’Nya Lunnermon and Serenity Lunnermon, Gray’s Creek’s Kylie Aldridge, Chassie Jacops, Kelsie Rouse, Morgan Brady and Aliyah Brown, South View’s Katelynn Swain and Terry Sanford’s Mia Arnold.
The second team includes Cape Fear’s Payton Gunter and Olivia Melvin, Terry Sanford’s Maggie Barnes and Morgan Williams, South View’s Casey Dees and Triniti Miles, Pine Forest’s Keevyn Reese, Gray’s Creek’s Jaide Holliday and E.E. Smith’s Jaida Priebe.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic schedules are subject to last-minute change and all athletic events are subject to extremely limited or no spectator attendance. Check with the home school prior to attempting to attend any event in person.
Last week’s results
Cape Fear 47, Gray’s Creek 35
Westover 70, Pine Forest 65
Terry Sanford 91, South View 59
E.E. Smith 70, Douglas Byrd 18
Northwood Temple 74, Village Christian 11
Cape Fear 61, Gray’s Creek 32
Pine Forest 69, Westover 24
Terry Sanford 62, South View 32
Village Christian 50, Northwood Temple 33
Northwood Temple 99, Calvary Day 67
Northwood Temple 79, Franklin Prep 56
Cape Fear 63, Douglas Byrd 27
Gray’s Creek 58, Overhills 52
Terry Sanford 57, Pine Forest 52
Freedom Christian 72, Village Christian 26
Cape Fear d. Douglas Byrd, forfeit
E.E. Smith 59, Westover 30
Overhills 47, Gray’s Creek 28
Terry Sanford 69, Pine Forest 53
Village Christian 72, Freedom Christian 30
Westover 66, Gray’s Creek 43
South View 57, Cape Fear 55
Freedom Christian 66, Thales Rolesville 50
This week’s games
Cape Fear at Terry Sanford
Westover at Douglas Byrd
Gray’s Creek at South View
Pine Forest at Overhills
Seventy-First at Pinecrest
Northwood Temple at Wayne Country Day (boys)
Northwood Temple at Freedom Christian (girls)
Freedom Christian at Trinity Christian
Fayetteville Academy at Coastal Christian
Fayetteville Christian at Northwood Temple (girls)
Freedom Christian at John Paul II Catholic
Fayetteville Christian at Cape Fear Christian (boys)
Douglas Byrd at Pine Forest
E.E. Smith at Overhills
Westover at South View
Trinity Christian at Northwood Temple
Village Christian at Cape Fear Christian
Freedom Christian at Fayetteville Christian
Cape Fear at E.E. Smith
Overhills at Pine Forest
Westover at Terry Sanford
Union Pines at Gray’s Creek
Jack Britt at Scotland
Pinecrest at Seventy-First
Cape Fear at South View
E.E. Smith at Pine Forest
Westover at Gray’s Creek
Overhills at Terry Sanford
Lumberton at Jack Britt
Hoke County at Seventy-First
NCHSAA 3-A state meet at Ivey Redmon Sports Complex, Kernersville
Jack Britt, Seventy-First, Lumberton at Westover Recreation Center
Patriot Athletic Conference championship at Westover Recreation Center