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FHSAA task force continues recommendation to push back start date for fall sports

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The start of fall practices for high school sports in Florida is set to begin in less than three weeks. .

Still, there are many questions to be answered regarding the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, fan attendance, possible official shortages, and whether school districts, particularly in South Florida, will even allow students to start participating in athletic activities at that time.

On Thursday, the Florida High School Athletics Association task force met virtually for the third straight week to brainstorm potential proposals for practices, as well as dates for the regular season and postseason.

Most of Thursday was spent reviewing a proposal presented by FHSAA administrator Justin Harrison.

Even that went through some revisions during the two-hour meeting. 

Harrison’s plan initially called for four separate divisions, all with different start dates for fall sports.

In football, golf, bowling, cross country and volleyball, schools, or districts, could select a division depending on when they could start practices. Each school may also select a different division for each sport.

The current start for fall practices is July 27. Under the proposal, Division I practices would begin on time. The other divisions would all have later dates: Div. II (Aug, 10), Div. III (Aug. 24) and Div. IV (Sept. 7).

The regular season start dates would be staggered, too. For example, Division I would begin Aug. 17 with the other divisions each following two-week delays. .

This provided even more leeway to schools without having to stick to the same date statewide.

Ultimately, the task force continued with its recommendation from last week to push back the start of practices for fall sports to Aug. 10 at the earliest. Because of that, they also decided to pair down the divisions in the proposal from four to three.   

This was a non-binding recommendation. It still has to be reviewed by the FHSAA staff and a decision to move forward with those dates has to be approved by the board of directors, most likely through a vote within the next week.

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No more fans at Pasco County sporting events after COVID spike

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Stock football stadium

Pasco County has decided to limit all athletic activities to students and coaches due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases. 

That means no fans or media members in attendance. 

The new rule starts on Monday and will last until the positivity rate, which has climbed to nine percent, drops to below five percent for a rolling seven-day period. 

In the past two weeks, two county football teams — Wiregrass Ranch and Fivay — had to forfeit playoff games because of a player testing positive for coronavirus and multiple team members and coaches having to quarantine due to contact tracing. 

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Coronavirus

COVID case ends Osceola’s volleyball season

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Osceola, which made the Class 5A region finals in volleyball last season, had to forfeit Monday’s district quarterfinal match because its entire junior varsity and varsity teams are quarantining after a player tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 25, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said.  

By forfeiting, the Warriors ended their season. They were ranked fifth in the state in Class 5A and were expected to go on another deep playoff run.

“We have to follow what the health officials tell us,” Bennett said. “It’s tough because Osceola is one of our best volleyball teams in the county. I talked to the Florida High School Athletic Association and they said there were plenty of other teams around the state in the same situation.”

Under CDC and Pinellas County health department guidelines, any student athlete who tests positive must be quarantined, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15-minute duration without any face covering. Osceola’s quarantine ends on Oct. 19, a week after the district tournament.. 

All the players have currently tested negative, including the one who was originally positive. But the quarantine did not end. The Warriors also had to postpone their appearance in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. That title game against St. Petersburg will be made up once the Green Devils’ season ends. 

“It’s heartbreaking for the seniors to have their season end this way, but we’re really excited for the chance to play the PCAC Final at home for senior night as our last match of the season, against our toughest competition, St Petersburg,” Osceola coach Ashley Martin said.”It will feel like a state championship since a trophy is involved.”    

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PHU cancels season opener after a football player tests positive for coronavirus

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Palm Harbor University’s season opener against rival East Lake this Friday has been cancelled after a Hurricanes player tested positive for coronavirus, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett confirmed in a text message.

It was unclear how many PHU players are currently under quarantine. According to CDC and county health department guidelines, a player who tests positive must quarantine, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15 minute duration with a face covering.

The Hurricanes next game is scheduled for Sept. 17 at Wharton. Bennett said the school is looking into moving that game to Saturday or Monday to avoid another cancellation.

The Eagles will now host Sarasota Riverview in Friday’s opener.

This is the fourth area football program that had to cancel its season opener after having a player test positive for the virus.

Hillsborough and Jefferson, which were supposed to play on Friday, both have players under quarantine. Their opponents, Chamberlain and Gaither, are now kicking off the regular season against each other.

Zephyrhills is in a similar situation and had to cancel its first two games.

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