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FHSAA likely to push back the start of practices, regular season in fall sports

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Three weeks ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a plan for reopening K-12 schools in August. Many of the decisions on how to do that will be left to the leaders in each district. 

What about high school sports? 

The Florida High School Athletic Association plans to have them. In fact, the fall calendar currently remains the same with official practices for fall sports such as football, volleyball, golf and cross country set to start on July 27. 

Still, the dates are likely to change.

Because of the spike in COVID-19 cases, many school administrators are wanting more time — and flexibility — scheduling practices and games in the fall. 

On Wednesday, the FHSAA’s task force met for the second straight to brainstorm via Zoom the best blueprint for how to conduct sports this upcoming school year. Among the topics discussed: how to have fans attend games, whether to move certain sports to another time of the year and the possibility of not having a state meet or series. 

Here are the key items. 

Practice dates

The task force recommended pushing back the start of practices for fall sports to Aug. 10 at the earliest. 

This was a non-binding recommendation. It still has to be reviewed by the FHSAA staff and a decision to move forward with that date has to be approved by the board of directors, most likely through a vote within the next two weeks. The two-week delay would give school districts, particularly those in South Florida, more time to prepare for the upcoming fall sports seasons considering that practices would start in less than four weeks under the current plan.

The task force also passed through a motion to further review a proposal presented by FHSAA administrator Justin Harrison.

Under Harrison’s plan, schools would have four options to start fall practices: July 27-Aug. 8, Aug. 10-22, Aug. 24-Sept. 5 and Sept.7 or later. This provides even more leeway to schools without having to stick to the same date statewide.

Here is the proposal.

Regular season

As it stands, the regular season for football is scheduled to start Aug. 21.

Again, that is likely to change. 

Harrison’s proposal, which was recommended to be studied more by an 8-7 vote, includes start dates for the regular season. That plan has four options. The first three are Aug. 31, Sept. 14 and Sept. 21. The schools that decide on a particular date would be paired together for postseason purposes. The current structure for the state series also would remain the same under those dates. 

The other option, where schools would start practices by Sept. 7, would allow teams to create a local playoff format rather than compete in the state series.   

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The Hernando County Football Player of the Week

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FB/LB Zack Buzze, Sr., Central

This season has been challenging for the winless Bears. 

Outscored 325-22 in eight games, Central tries to accentuate the positives to build upon next season.  

Zack Buzze is one of the bright spots. The linebacker leads the team in tackles with 44. 

Against Gulf two weeks ago, Buzze recorded a team-high 13 tackles. 

That got the attention of fans. Buzze received 49 percent of the votes (699) in the Hernando County football player of the week poll to beat out Hernando’s Jordan Williams, who had 44 percent (628 votes).

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The Pasco County Football Player of the Week

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Hunter McFarland, Sr., Mitchell

After losing 26 players to graduation, Mitchell needed to fill plenty of voids to make the playoffs for the eighth straight season. 

Hunter McFarland has stepped up on defense. 

The senior is enjoying the best season of his high school career. He has 53 tackles, more than he had in his previous two seasons combined. 

McFarland also a nose for the ball — and the quarterback. He has forced three fumbles, recorded 3 ½ sacks and recovered two fumbles. 

Against Hudson two weeks ago, McFarland finished with five tackles, two fumble recoveries, a sack and forced fumble to lead the Mustangs to a victory. 

Fans were impressed. McFarland ended up with 52 percent of the votes (1,462) in the Pasco County football player of the week poll to beat out Zephyrhills Christian’s Jayce Nixon, who had 34 percent (955 votes).  

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The Pinellas County Football Player of the Week

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LB Garrick Ponder, Sr., Pinellas Park

A transfer from Seminole, Garrick Ponder wasted no time making an impact. 

The senior not only became a starter but also turned into one of the area’s defensive stars.

Ponder leads the Patriots in tackles (72), sacks, (six), forced fumbles (three) and fumble recoveries (two). Those numbers are a big reason the Patriots are 6-1 and currently tied with Northeast for second place in Class 6A, District 11. 

Against St,. Petersburg, Ponder had one of his best performances, finishing with 14 tackles and a sack. 

Fans were impressed. Ponder received 40 percent of the votes (812) in the Pinellas County football player of the week poll to beat out Keswick Christian’s Caleb Morris, who had 32 percent (646).   

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