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High school football moving to a February start; sports year can begin Nov. 4
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High school football moving to a February start; sports year can begin Nov. 4

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East Forsyth players celebrate their Class 4-A state championship in December 2019.

Updates at 7:32 p.m. with new version:

Todd Willert talked with a few football players just minutes after the release of a revised athletics calendar — an initial framework and renewed hope for a season previously on hold because of COVID-19 — from the N.C. High School Athletic Association.

The head coach at East Forsyth exchanged texts with what he called a “leadership group,” which included quarterback Ty Lyles, N.C. State recruit Micah Crowell, running back Traylon Ingram, lineman Jacob Fletcher and Power Five prospect Zyun Reeves. Willert said there was a little sadness that a season in the fall wouldn’t come to fruition, after all. But a starting point was established this week for football and 15 additional NCHSAA-sanctioned sports to play again after what is now a five-month hiatus.

“At least we have some direction,” Willert said. “I can go to our workouts tonight and tell my guys, ‘Hey, we’ve got a due date. Let’s make sure we’re ready. Let’s make sure we’re in shape.’ You know, let’s roll.”

The NCHSAA and Commissioner Que Tucker today announced its plan for a 2020-21 calendar calling for a condensed sports year now scheduled to begin Nov. 4. The new dates include a move of a shortened football season to the late winter and spring. It’s also a framework that also conjures up additional questions as the details are still being hashed out.

A postseason has yet to be determined as the vast majority of sports — volleyball, basketball, soccer, golf, tennis, baseball, softball and wrestling included — are limited to 14 games or matches, a plan approved by the NCHSAA board of directors Tuesday night. Football got its schedule split nearly in half with seven matchups, beginning with practices Feb. 8. Seasons, such as football stretching from February to April and basketball from December to February, will overlap.

Jay Benfield, the head coach of the Mount Tabor soccer program, said several boys players participate in other sports, such as lacrosse — those seasons will have identical schedules of Jan. 25 to March 12. According to Benfield, the new plan intersects with the club soccer season that typically runs February through May or June.

“That might be a decision that some of these players might have to make,” Benfield said. “You know, do I have a shortened high school season or do I play a full club season? I think, for me, it’s an easy question.

“For families, do they want to see their kids play for the high schools or do they want to pay ‘X’ amount of money to play club. I’m hoping the financial piece of it will, you know, I’ll get all my guys back.”

High school sports has remained suspended since mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak, which cut short spring sports and a brought a halt to boys and girls basketball championships just a few days before tipoff. The association last week said it would further delay the start of official fall practices beyond its rescheduled date of Sept. 1.

Football programs in Forsyth County and the surrounding region also will forge ahead without several Division I prospects. Three defensive standouts from Glenn — rising seniors Raneiria Dillworth and Jahvaree Ritzie, who are both bound for North Carolina, and Old Dominion pledge Jahaad Scales — are expected to enroll at their colleges in January. Dillworth, a Journal All-Northwest linebacker, announced his move via Twitter after the NCHSAA’s release of its plan.

Willert, whose Eagles claimed their second straight NCHSAA Class 4-A title in December, also could lose players. Rising senior Jaden Lindsay, headed for Appalachian State; Jamison Warren, who will attend N.C. A&T; Lyles, who said he would attend Coastal Carolina; and Crowell and Reeves would get Willert's support whatever decision they make, the coach said.

“It’s going to be a big issue because we were already starting a little bit of practice — and we were following the protocols,” said Dillworth, who had planned to play for Glenn then enroll at UNC in January. “A lot of schools like Davie and East Forsyth, some of their players are going to be doing the same that Glenn players are doing.”

The association’s plan followed a survey of school districts in North Carolina, which inquired whether each system would allow sports under its retrofitted learning plans — a general framework Gov. Roy Cooper unveiled July 4. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the second-largest district in the state, returned its questionnaire last week noting it would not permit sports under its Plan C guidelines. Guilford County Schools, the third-largest system, did not favor allowing sports if students weren't on campus.

Meanwhile, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, arguably the largest district with roughly 55,000 K-12 students to open limited workouts on Aug. 3 for fall sports without equipment, didn't fill out a survey. According to Brent Campbell, the district's spokesman, the NCHSAA's direct emails to Superintendent Angela Hairston were blocked and unknowingly halted in an external filter from June to Tuesday. Campbell noted the NCHSAA's survey was closed and the data collected.

Limited workouts across a few of the five largest school districts in the state have been in a holding pattern, following the NCHSAA's decision to lift its dead period on sports June 15. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Wake County, Guilford County and Cumberland County districts have been in an indefinite delay.

WS/FCS released a statement in support of the NCHSAA’s revised schedule.

“The WS/FCS Athletics Committee, a part of our 'Back to School' committees, will meet in the coming days to discuss this scheduling change and the impact on our athletes,” the statement read. “Soon, the committee, which is made up of high school coaches, principals, and district leaders, will make recommendations as to how the district can best move forward in light of the NCHSAA decision.”


Athletes, coaches and staff at public high schools have a new calendar for a condensed sports year, now scheduled to begin Nov. 4.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association announced new dates Wednesday afternoon and moved a shortened football season to a winter-spring season.

High school sports have remained suspended since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, which cut short spring sports and a brought a halt to boys and girls basketball championships just a few days before tipoff. The association said last week it would further delay the start of official fall practices beyond Sept. 1. The NCHSAA, in its memo on Aug. 6, stated it hoped to release a revised athletics calendar by Monday — the opening date for the 2020-21 school year across the state. 

That came in response to North Carolina remaining in Phase Two of its reopening plan, including limits on gathering of up to 25 people. That was order was extended by Gov. Roy Cooper, and lasts through Sept. 11, last week as well. 

The NCHSAA's plan was released after a survey of school districts across the state, which inquired whether each system would allow sports under its retrofitted learning plans — a general framework Cooper unveiled July 4. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the second-largest district in the North Carolina, returned its questionnaire last week noting it would not permit sports under its Plan B guidelines. Guilford County Schools, the third-largest system, did not favor allowing sports if students weren't on campus.

Meanwhile, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, arguably the largest district to open limited workouts on Aug. 3 for fall sports without equipment, didn't submit a survey. According to Brent Campbell, the district's spokesman, the NCHSAA's direct emails to Superintendent Angela Hairston were blocked and unknowingly halted in an external filter from June to that day. Campbell noted the NCHSAA's survey was closed and the data collected. 

Limited workouts across the a few of the five largest school districts in the state have been in a holding pattern, following the NCHSAA's decision to lift its dead period on sports June 15. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Wake County, Guilford County and Cumberland County districts have been in an indefinite delay. 

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