LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine issued a statement to member schools and media Wednesday outlining the upcoming high school football season. Week one is set to begin on October 8.
“It’s ambitious. I’ll use the term ambitious, yeah. But you know what, if you’re not ambitious you don’t get anything done,” Bonine said. “We want to play football. I want kids to play football. Parents want kids to play football yesterday. But we’ve got to do this safely.”
“What’s the alternative? Nothing. No sports. We’ve already been down that ugly road in the spring and we are going to do everything we can to prevent that from happening again.”
The plan is obviously dependant on the state moving to Phase Three on August 29. From there, it begins to take shape as teams can don full pads for practice.
Following a “10 to 14-day” period of decline in the positive case numbers, Bonine said the LHSAA would then petition state officials to allow for contact at practice. Teams will then go through collision drills over the next 21 days in an effort to best prepare the players’ bodies for the rigors of a football season.
“There is a difference in contact and collision. Football is a collision sport. You know we are going to put players in pads and if we are still allowing 7-on-7, there is going to be some kind of contact. Whether that be receivers releasing off the line or whatever it is,” said Bonine. “We are going to try and limit that.”
Following that 31 to 35-day stretch, schools can then schedule a jamboree or scrimmage game on October 1, 2 or 3. One week later would be the start of the season. In the plan, schools would start the season with their week three opponent, dropping the first two matchups from their schedules.
Bonine admits the plan is a fluid one with changes able to come any day since it depends on the trajectory of positive COVID-19 case numbers in Louisiana. However, he said the LHSAA has remained focused on getting student-athletes back on the playing field.
“Kids need to get back in class... whatever the educational system and delivery system is. They need to start learning again and they need to get their brains working again,” Bonine said. “They need to have athletics back and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish but it’s going to take some time to do it.”
Bonine also stressed the importance of playing the state championships in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome if able. He said there are three dates likely available in December to do so with each having a smaller playoff field.
Bonine admitted an eight-game schedule would be ideal. If that were the case, the regular season would last from October 8 to November 28. The playoffs would then be four rounds start on December 3. The Prep Classic would then be held December 27-29. The Sunday, Monday and Tuesday schedule would help the LHSAA dodge both Christmas and the start of the All-State Sugar Bowl.
A seven-game and six-game schedule was also brought up by Bonine with the same start date. For a six-game season, the Prep Classic would remain on the same date as originally scheduled (December 10-12), while seven games would likely see the state championships being held December 14-16. The New Orleans Bowl would cause the seven-game schedule to move to Monday-Wednesday.
Despite a commitment to playing in the Superdome, Bonine said the LHSAA is also considering playing at a college-sized venue in January in need be.
“We can’t go anywhere in the ‘Dome after the last part of December. All that hinges on whether they play the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day,” admitted Bonine. “The bottom line is that if we don’t play in December and we choose to move or have a bump in the schedule, we can play outdoors in January.”
Bonine mentioned Tulane’s Yulman Stadium, UL Lafayette’s Cajun Field and Shreveport’s Independence Stadium by name as options.
He said multiple times Wednesday he was looking at the next few weeks with a glass-half-full mindset but understands the season may be delayed even further. While playing the football season is important for the LHSAA, Bonine made clear there was no intention to push back other sports dates to accommodate football.
“We aren’t going to keep messing with sports’ [start dates]. Fall sports have this long practice time and if that’s what we need for basketball, it is what it is,” Bonine said. “We are adding two to three weeks to that layover but it gives those athletes who are basketball players and wrestlers the opportunity to start doing what they need to prepare for the transition in starting back again.”
Bonine said over the coming days, the LHSAA will send out specific blueprints for each fall sport.