E.A. Sports Today

Sports locked down

Calhoun County schools principals temporarily suspend sports before the coronavirus shutdown, cancel four spring County Tournaments
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
As projected by East Alabama Sports Today Saturday with games still scheduled to play, Calhoun County high school sports teams played their final games for the foreseeable future over the weekend. 
The principals of the Calhoun County Schools system agreed Monday to shut down sports and later their schools joined many others around the state in shuttering their doors through the first week in April ahead of Wednesday’s scheduled shutdown in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

The games are expected to return this year depending on when the school years resumes, but without the rest of the Calhoun County Tournament program.
The county’s 15 high school principals also voted unanimously to cancel the four remaining Calhoun County Tournament events – golf, soccer, softball, track – that were scheduled to take place during the window of tentative return. In addition to the current government guidance on limiting crowds, teams likely will be required to make up state play once school resumes making it difficult to reschedule the county events.
“We don’t know where or how we could put these tournaments back together,” said Pleasant Valley principal Mark Proper, this year’s president of the county principals and coaches association. “This absolutely breaks my heart; it affects one of my own kids (his son Cole throws the javelin for PV’s track team).
“In all my years in Calhoun County I can’t remember having to cancel like this. Weather may have gotten one or two (days) here or there, but nothing like this. We’re hoping we come back, but the thing is prom and graduation is all up in the air, too.”
The cancelation will not have a financial burden on the schools since Proper was proactive with canceling venues, officials and awards. The teams that played in the four events shared a revenue pool of $9,700 last year, but the riches of the county tournaments come more from the playing experience than the paycheck.

“I tell folks all the time I’ve been other places and there’s no county tournament quite like Calhoun County’s,” Alexandria softball coach Brian Hess said. “It’s a unique thing and to win it is a little bit different than most county tournaments because it’s difficult to get there. It’s a special day.”
The Lady Cubs know how special it is. They’ve won it the last two years.
“It’s disappointing,” he said of the cancelation. “I told the kids before we found out the vote there was a possibility it could be canceled. The time line they gave was 2½ weeks but it’ll probably be longer than that. If we’re fortunate to get back we’ll probably have to make up all the area stuff and we’re probably going to miss out on everything else.
“They got a little emotional about it and we let them get emotional. Their biggest thing is we wanted to three-peat. I said that’s out of control. Our biggest concern is just getting back on the field. They’re anxious to get back out there at some point.”

On Friday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced a shutdown of public schools K-12 from the end of Wednesday’s school day to tentatively April 6. The timing of the stoppage would have allowed teams from the schools that remained open to the deadline to play games in hopes of meeting the state high school athletic association’s recommendation to get in as many required area games as possible before closing.
Many took advantage of that — Pleasant Valley played three area games Saturday — and several schools moved up area games to Monday and Tuesday, but as Monday progressed more and more schools canceled classes and games were postponed. Eventually, following an earlier CDC guideline recommending to curtail groups of 50 or more for the next eight weeks, the Calhoun County principals approved shutting down athletics and ultimately the board closed its schools earlier than the Wednesday deadline.
“The county schools are not playing, I can’t speak for those outside the county umbrella,” Proper said earlier in the day. “With the new directive from the state … how could you do that? With softball and baseball, there’s 30 (players, coaches, staff) there. How are you going to pick 10 random fans (to fill in the 50)?”
As schools and school systems announced their plans to close ahead of the shutdown, fewer and fewer teams became available as replacement opponents.
Soon thereafter, Oxford City Schools announced it was shutting down for students after Monday classes and for teachers and staff Tuesday at 12:30 p.m.  

“We’re no different than everybody,” Oxford athletics director Larry Davidson said. “Everybody wants to play, everybody hates it for the kids, but on top of that the safety of the kids and the safety of everybody who comes to watch them is a lot more important. I hate it for those seniors especially but hopefully we’re going to be back in time in April and restart it.”

The Yellow Jackets spent their last baseball day together for a while playing an intrasquad Black & Gold World Series and celebrating Senior Day at their on-campus Bud McCarty Field. The planned shutdown already had forced a cancelation of the Jackets-sponsored Choccolocco Park Spring Break Experience. Oxford planned to refund the visiting teams’ entry fees, but most of them, including Hickman High School of Columbia, Mo., told the Jackets to simply carry it over to next year’s event.

Later Monday afternoon, federal health officials updated their recommendation for the next 15 days to, among other things, no gatherings of more than 10 people and no unnecessary travel. The President stopped short of ordering a nationwide lockdown.
If there is no more athletics for the year, Piedmont’s baseball team will end its most promising season 15-0 and undefeated in area play. The baseball Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 in Class 3A (No. 21 overall), just last week won their first ever Calhoun County Tournament title, and entertained visions of bringing home a state championship.

They could have clinched their area title if they swept Weaver in the doubleheader that was scheduled for Monday. Several other teams in the county were contending for the lead in their areas while many others had yet to play an area game that impacts their post-season chances.
“We could all see it coming, trickle down from the NBA and all that stuff,” said Piedmont coach Matt Deerman, a science teacher who ironically was just about to teach his biology class about viruses. “It was an eerie feeling. As a competitor, you want to deny it’s coming because you want to complete your season, you don’t want to see kids get that taken away from them, but (the decision) was made by people who had a lot more knowledge than the regular public. We’ve got to trust those decisions.
“Obviously, it kills the momentum, but nobody’s going to have any momentum (coming back); it’s just like starting over again. When we gathered with the kids you could see the sad looks on their faces. If you don’t have a good attitude about it and feel sorry for yourself it’ll take a toll and it doesn’t do any good to get in a state of depression. I have a feeling our kids will get out and do some things on their own. I even heard today some of them organizing some stuff. We’ll be fine.”
The Alabama High School Athletics Association has been developing a contingency plan for the playoffs for whenever the school year resumes. An overview of the plan will be available on the AHSAA website following the Contingency Committee’s meeting Tuesday.

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