When Gov. John Bel Edwards announced last week the state was extending Phase 2 for an additional two weeks, it didn’t come with the notice of past announcements as Louisiana was dealing with a pair of storms, including Hurricane Laura, which devastated the southwestern part of the state.
What the announcement of the Phase 2 extension did do, however, was leave a few areas needing clarification as high school sports in the state attempts to move forward while continuing to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
“There are a couple of things that have to be cleared up, specifically with volleyball, not really with football,” said Dwain Jenkins, Lutcher’s athletic director and head football coach.
“With them being able to start games and what that looked like, we needed to be in Phase 3 because of capacity in the gym in order to host games,” Jenkins continued. “There may be some delay there if there is some special circumstances that pass.
“The problem is that they were scheduled to start games. Now with it being not being in Phase 3, you can’t start those games. There will have to be some adjustments to that schedule because they were scheduled to have games the week of September 7.”
The main issue is gathering sizes. Phase 3 allows for gatherings of 50, allowing a sport like volleyball to begin competition between different schools beginning in that stage. At Phase 2, the limit is 25.
“If we were in Phase 2 to August 28, they gave us some dates where we could schedule a couple of scrimmages the first week of September and actually start playing on September 8, the day after Labor Day. I haven’t heard anything since he said he was going to extend it two more weeks,” said Lutcher volleyball coach Rickey LeBlanc.
There has been some talk that perhaps the Louisiana High School Athletic Association might allow some sort of exception to allow gatherings of up to 50 while remaining in Phase 2 – but that has been more speculation rather than fact, according to LeBlanc.
“There must be some talk out there,” said LeBlanc. “I don’t know where it’s coming from amongst other coaches. I actually had a coach call me looking to schedule a game and he was saying he heard they were going to let us play. I didn’t hear that.”
Even a move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 was in no way a guarantee.
“It was probably wishful thinking,” LeBlanc said. “With (the governor’s) original extension from the first time to August 28, I guess there was wishful thinking and hope that he would move us to Phase 3 starting this week.”
Even if the gathering numbers were extended to 50, there likely would have to be certain accommodations, according to LeBlanc.
“Some of my matches, I had previously scheduled a freshman match, a jayvee match and varsity match the same day. That would be next to impossible to do unless you would play a game, clear the gym, play a game, clear the gym and play. If you are talking just a jayvee and varsity match, that is possibly doable. That’s without fans, but I don’t think they are going to allow us to have fans, anyway,” said LeBlanc.
Regardless of when it might happen, LeBlanc said his players are anxious to compete.
“We’re ready,” LeBlanc said. “I know the girls want to play. They would like to see someone else. I told the girls, if and when they do say we can play, I just want to make sure we are ready.”
As far as football is concerned, Phase 4 would need to be reached for schools to compete against other teams.
The status prior to the latest extension by the governor had caused the LHSAA to come up with an eight-game season plan based on the state entering Phase 3 this week.
Even though Phase 2 was extended for two weeks, that timetable may still be possible if some changes are made, such as the length of time for full-contact practices from the start of Phase 4 to the first playing date, according to Jenkins.
Those changes, Jenkins said, likely would come at the recommendation of Dr. Greg Stewart and the LHSAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.
The current timetable calls for a three-week period for players to get “football ready” in terms of physical contact before an initial game could played, but that isn’t necessarily etched in stone.
“That (recommendation) wasn’t a state thing, that was a SMAC committee recommendation about those three weeks once we moved out of Phase 3,” Jenkins explained. “That wasn’t guidelines from the state. That actually is something the LHSAA has control over.”
“There has been some talk in different circles with Dr. Stewart about the potential of trying to have some kind of modified contact by the end of Phase 3,” Jenkins continued. “That way, you can move directly once you move into Phase 4 and go straight into competition. I think that’s where some of that conversation is coming from.”