Oct 30, 2020 - Sports

High school football's pandemic struggles

A flag football game in Maine this month. Photo: Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
A flag football game in Maine this month. Photo: Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

High school football is a staple of fall Fridays across America. But due to the pandemic, that's only true in certain parts of the country this year.

The state of play: In some states, the playoffs are right around the corner. In other states, the season just began. And in 16 states, plus Washington, D.C., high school football won't happen until 2021.

  • Postponed to 2021: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C.
A look around the country

1. Texas: The pandemic has ravaged the Rio Grande Valley, where the southern tip of Texas meets the Mexico border, and "the fields are rich with cotton and grapefruit and oranges," writes New York Times' Jeré Longman.

  • Palmview High School was set to kick off its abbreviated season today, but that was put on hold when two players tested positive earlier this month.
  • When their tests turned out to be false positives, practice was allowed to resume — but then a team volunteer tested positive. Palmview is now scheduled to debut next weekend, but everything is still up in the air.

2. Oregon: With full-contact football prohibited, 7-on-7 passing leagues, typically reserved for the summer months, have been popping up throughout Oregon.

  • Some school districts are allowing their football programs to compete as their official school team, while others operate as clubs.
  • 7-on-7 football doesn't have linemen, so they've been holding their own competitions — like who can bench-press 135 pounds the most times.

3. New Jersey: Since the season began in mid-September, nearly 50% of the state's 336 teams have been impacted by COVID-19, meaning they either had to shut down and/or cancel, postpone or reschedule a game.

4. Michigan: Pairings for the largest high school playoff field in state history were announced this week. Virtually every team qualified after the season was shortened by three games.

5. Maine: 7-on-7 has taken over in Maine, too. Some players, coaches and parents have had a hard time accepting what was lost, but Cape Elizabeth senior captain Will Thornton is taking things in stride.

  • "I'm taking this as serious as a real game. I got hurt in the first quarter of the first game last season. I know what it's like to miss a season. ... This is the closest thing we've got, so we're going to work our asses off."

The national poll (full top 25):

  1. IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.): 6-0
  2. North Shore (Galena Park, Tex.): 5-0
  3. St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia): 2-0
  4. Grayson (Loganvilla, Ga.): 6-0
  5. Duncanville (Texas): 2-1
  6. Ryan (Denton, Texas): 5-0
  7. Chandler (Ariz.): 4-0
  8. Miami Northwestern (Fla.): 1-0
  9. Lowndes (Texas): 3-0
  10. DeSoto (Texas): 3-0
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