Hillsborough, Pinellas plan to stay in state football series

Pinellas and Hillsborough counties are both starting practices for fall sports on Aug. 24 and will each kick off the regular season in football on Sept. 11.

They also are planning to opt into the state series. By doing so, the two counties are able to keep their football schedules aligned as much as possible. The decision to at least tentatively move forward in the state series all but eliminates the seven county coalition that was discussed as a possible option for the past month.  

In Hillsborough, the first allowable date for regular season games or meets in bowling, cross country, golf, swimming and diving and volleyball is Sept. 7. 

In Pinellas, the fall sports other than football will start their regular seasons on Sept. 8. Bennett said he is giving programs in those sports some flexibility to reschedule games or meets that were canceled early on because the season was pushed back. 

Bennett also said Pinellas County is at least keeping the option open of starting the regular season in football on Sept. 18 if there are a high number of COVID-19 cases at schools once classes start next week. 

If the schedule was pushed back, Bennett said Pinellas schools could end up opting out of the state series.

Hillsborough and Pinellas were the only two counties in the Tampa Bay area that have officially made decisions. 

Pasco is scheduled to start practices on Sept. 7 and Hernando County on Sept, 14, though the dates are tentative. 

So how will football schedules look? 

According to the FHSAA’s plan for option one, which was approved by the board of directors last week, the kickoff classics and opening games were canceled and teams would pick up their schedules according to their planned start dates. Hillsborough and Pinellas teams, for example,would start with their week three opponent on their schedules based on a Sept. 11 start date.