If COVID-19 doesn’t wreak more havoc the rest of this school year, then a lot of weeks ahead are going to look like last week, when news relating to high school athletics seemingly happened every few minutes.
The busy season of March is nearly upon us, when six sports will be in action during the month. But before the frenzy arrives, let’s look back at the week past and all that unfolded.
FOOTBALL AND FANS: The pending start of the high school football season has helped fuel concerns across the state about the 100-fan limit for outdoor high school sports events.
Early last week, a group of Republican state senators introduced a bill that would allow outdoor facilities to have 40 percent of capacity in attendance, looking to push that legislation to override the executive order put in place by Governor Roy Cooper.
On Thursday, Cooper then announced that he planned to issue a new executive order this week relating to attendance at outdoor sporting events. The governor refused to commit to raising the limit with that order.
So, perhaps, there will be more than 100 fans allowed at games. Any changes, though, are going to mean scrambling and headaches for athletic departments, who will have to revise their protocols and plans to handle a larger attendance.
Perhaps the most remarkable tale arising from the fan debate originated in Canton, where Pisgah officials hoped to exploit a loophole in Cooper’s order for the season-opening showdown with Tuscola. Venues of 10,000 seats can, per the order, admit seven percent of capacity. So Pisgah officials planned to add 3,500 temporary seats to Pisgah Memorial Stadium, bringing its capacity to 10,000, which would have allowed them to have 700 fans for the Tuscola game.
North Carolina High School Athletic Association rules, though, don’t include that seven percent exemption, and the NCHSAA quickly shut down Pisgah’s plan.
REALIGNMENT ALL BUT COMPLETE: The NCHSAA released the final draft of its realignment plan for the 2021-2025 seasons. That draft will now go to the NCHSAA Board of Directors in March for final approval.
There is one remaining opportunity for schools to appeal, but since no schools in Polk County’s new conference filed an appeal of the fourth draft, no one can offer an appeal in the final round.
So it’s largely official – Polk County will move up to 2A this fall and compete with Brevard, Chase, East Rutherford, Hendersonville, Patton and R-S Central.
It’s a conference that will mean reduced and easier travel for Wolverine programs, with no treks to Avery, Mitchell, etc. But it will be a challenging league in many sports. Should be interesting to see how things unfold the next four years.
HOOPED OUT: Basketball season came to an end Friday for Polk County’s varsity boys and girls teams, the Wolverine girls earning a 42-31 win at Madison while the boys suffered a 61-52 setback.
It marked a disappointing end to the season for the Polk boys, who began the week with a 6-2 record and hopes of a state 1A playoff berth. But a close loss to league champion Mountain Heritage was followed by a loss at Mitchell that ended Polk’s postseason chances and the defeat at Madison.
The Wolverines still finished the season with a 6-5 record, the program’s first winning season in nine years. Polk’s junior varsity also finished with a winning record, and with leading scorer Dominique Carson back next year, the Wolverines will look to accomplish a feat that hasn’t happened since the early 1990s – back-to-back winning seasons.
CRUISING FOR PLAYERS PAYS OFF FOR OLLIS: Polk County football coach Bruce Ollis isn’t shy, as he travels the halls each day, about asking students if they’re interested in joining the Wolverine program.
That approach recently paid off with freshman Keaundrae Green, who may line up along fellow freshman Antonio Simpson at times to give quarterback Casey Beiler a pair of athletic targets.
“Antonio Simpson’s a 6-3 kid ,a freshman, who has got a chance to really help us,” Ollis said. “And then Keaundrae Green is going to be an eight-quarter guy right now and he may evolve just being a Friday night guy.
“He’s been more of a basketball player, and I just saw him in the hallway one day and said something to him. He probably goes up and catches the ball as well as any kid we’ve got. He’s one of those kids that just rebounds the ball, a lot like Josh Twitty used to do.”
PARTICIPATION DOWN EVERYWHERE: Polk County didn’t field junior varsity girls basketball or boys soccer teams this season. The same thing may happen to the Wolverine softball program as well.
It’s a trend this academic year that is playing out in schools across the state, with many growing concerned about what the numbers mean for the future of high school sports.
HighSchoolOT.com surveyed every athletic director in the state about participation thus far this year. Of the 421 schools surveyed, 265 ADs responded, representing 63 percent of all schools.
The entire story is very much worth reading, and look for more coverage from the site in the days and weeks ahead. But some of the sobering numbers:
- 66 percent of schools have already dropped at least one junior varsity sport
- 24 percent of schools have dropped at least one varsity sport
- Thirteen girls basketball varsity teams, 16 varsity boys soccer teams and four varsity football teams are among the dropped programs.
BIG WEEK FOR PCMS SOCCER: Believe it or not, Polk County Middle’s boys soccer regular season is scheduled to end this week.
The Wolverines currently have three games slated, including a key match Tuesday against Hendersonville Middle. Polk Middle likely has to win that match to have any shot at finishing in the top two in the Blue Ridge Conference’s East Division and earning a playoff berth.
Hendersonville eked out a 1-0 win in the team’s first meeting this season.