E.A. Sports Today

Saks adding bowling

Emerging sport debuts this year; football officials put emphasis on targeting

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

MONTGOMERY – The competitive bass fishing team at Oxford High School won’t be the only new sports program at a Calhoun County school this academic year.

Saks will be offering boys and girls bowling when the sport debuts this winter. The sport is being introduced as an emerging non-championship sport this year and will move to a sanctioned championship sport in 2015-16.

AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese said Wednesday “most of the 6A and 7A schools” are participating with pockets of participation elsewhere, but a report provided by the organization showed only 30 schools with declared boys varsity teams and 28 with declared girls teams.

Saks is the only Calhoun County program on the AHSAA report with a declared team. Winterboro (1A) and Gadsden City (7A) also are listed.

The Anniston and Talladega Bowling Centers are among several across the state allowing the teams free play and rental equipment for the first two years of the program.

“Our bowling proprietors have been fabulous in this state,” Savarese said. “All the school will have to do is provide a team. We love it because it provides another student in a school an opportunity to compete in championship play and that bowling trophy will be the same as that football trophy. We’re all excited about that.”

The first day of official practice is Oct. 27 with the first of a maximum 12 competitions set for Nov. 17. The season ends Jan. 31, 2015.

The fishing program is not sanctioned by the AHSAA.

SAFETY FIRST: High school football officials will place greater emphasis on targeting and protecting defenseless players this season. Safety has always been at the forefront, but officials said these type penalties will be “strictly enforced” particularly early in the season. It applies to offensive and defensive players.

In the high school game, targeting is a 15-yard personal foul penalty but doesn’t bring an automatic ejection. It could if game officials judge the hit intentional or flagrant.

Piedmont coach Steve Smith, for one, hopes game officials consider intent when assessing those type penalties.

“I’m all for safety, safety of the players has to be first and foremost, but at the same time we’re football,” he said. “I hope the officials use good discretion on their end. I think intent is the part of the rule people have to really use their judgment on, the intent of the hit is what’s going to be more indicative of whether it warrants a penalty or not.

“We try to teach our kids safety and try to teach them to play hard but play the right way. I think if the referees use discretion on the intent of how things are done, I still think it’s going to be football and you’re not going to see an abundance of those type calls.”

MORE FOOTBALL: Even though schools have the option of playing its first game as a counter or an exhibition one week earlier than before, there is no move to bump up the official start to practice a week earlier. Savarese said Alabama has no limitation on summer practice in helmets and shorts.

On a related issue, Savarese expects more proposals in January similar to one offered last year for periods of unlimited competition in the summer. He said it was a “real possibility” the issue will be “tweaked by the membership” over the next year, but couldn’t predict its passage.

TV BLACKOUT: The Piedmont-Dadeville game in the Champions Challenge will be broadcast live over the AHSAA’s six-station statewide Raycom television network and the internet, but no teams from Calhoun or its neighboring counties will be shown on its new Thursday night Game of the Week lineup.

The AHSAA and Raycom Media announced a 10-game broadcast slate starting Aug. 28 with Mountain Brook at Huntsville. The lineup will span all seven classifications.

“Part of the intent was to not only focus on the game itself, but the community, the activities, the history, the tradition, the rivalries, the stories about what’s going on, so we’re really looking to put together a statewide community spotlight in addition to that game, so I wanted to have every classification and every part of the state included in these broadcasts,” said Mike Llewellyn, Raycom’s executive producer of the telecasts “Every one of these games has a different story behind it. I think you’ll find throughout this schedule a lot of stories, a lot of public interest.”

EASTERN REFS: Earlier this week you read where an officiating crew from the second-year Mid-East Officials Association based in Calhoun County would call the Carver-Opelika game in the Champions Challenge. Turns out all three officiating crews will come from the East part of the state.

Greg Brewer, the AHSAA’s director of football officials, said he simply rotates the associations among the games and, obviously, Mid-East had never done one before.

A crew from the Big East (Auburn/Opelika) will work the Piedmont-Dadeville game and a crew from the Northeast (Scottsboro/Fort Payne) will work the Stanhope Elmore-Spanish Fort game.

“It just worked out that way,” Brewer said. “I did make sure there was no association that contracted those teams to keep the neutrality.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. He can be reached at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and followed on Twitter @easportstoday1.

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