While coronavirus issues continue to influence high school sports in the state, the Alabama Independent School Association’s athletic committee met earlier in the week and took no action in altering the football schedule and the postseason format moving forward.
The effect on region games forced the committee to look at options for rescheduling the games or expanding the playoffs to include every team.
“You name it, we talked about it,” AISA executive director Michael McLendon said. “Ultimately it came down to this is how we said we’d do it to start with and it’s the most consistent way to do it. We still feel like the best four teams (from each region) are going to get in the playoffs.”
Twelve teams – roughly a third of the association – have had region games affected by coronavirus cancelations. Hardest hit has been Fort Dale, forced to forfeit two region games. A long shot to make the playoffs as a member of the rugged AAA Region 2 that includes Tuscaloosa, Monroe, Morgan, Clarke Prep and Bessemer, the Eagles’ chances are virtually non-existent now.
Five other teams have been forced to forfeit region games, including Sparta’s loss to Pickens, two strong contenders in Class A Region 2, and region rival South Choctaw, which received an unexpected open date on Sept. 4 after a forfeit win over Meadowview Christian, then tested positive and was forced to forfeit Friday’s game with region front runner Jackson.
Of the 13 teams that have won or lost a game by forfeit this season, 11 are in the 13-team Class A. Only Snook Academy and Abbeville Christian Academy have avoided the effects of COVID-19.
The other two teams are Fort Dale and Tuscaloosa, which was scheduled to play the Eagles. Fort Dale’s football squad, like the A teams has few reserves.
“In small towns at small schools, the kids are probably spending more time together outside of school,” McLendon said. “And on smaller teams, most of the kids having to sit out are ‘close-contact’ kids and if you’ve got 18 kids on your football team and you lose five, you’re in a bad situation for playing a football game.”
If a player tests positive for COVID-19, the school is forced to self-quarantine for a period of time any players who were within six feet for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
McLendon praised the member schools for their diligence in testing for the illness, taking steps to avoid its spread and following the proper protocol when a student tests positive. He added the spread of coronavirus is primarily at family gatherings and not at school, where stricter monitoring and enforcement is in place.
“Most of the tracing that’s been done, almost every one of them has resulted in it being the result of activity outside of the school, not a school activity or a sports activity,” he said.
Picking up forfeit wins this week were Lakeside School, Crenshaw Christian Academy, Jackson Academy and Clarke Prep School. While Lakeside and Clarke Prep took the week off, Jackson Academy and Crenshaw Christian played each other, leading to a 27-18 win by Jackson.
As a result, Jackson gets two wins on Friday, one by forfeit (South Choctaw) and one on the field (Crenshaw).
Tuscaloosa Academy is the only other AISA team to take advantage of the loophole, picking up a forfeit (Fort Dale) on Sept. 4, then defeating Valiant Cross Academy 48-21 on the field.