High school sports in Galveston County will return on time for some and a month late for most, but now local coaches and officials at least have some definitive target dates as they continue to navigate their programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re really excited we got something to aim for and a schedule, and I know the kids are excited,” Friendswood athletic director and head football coach Robert Koopmann said. “It just feels good to have some concrete answers — as concrete as we can be in the age of COVID.”
The University Interscholastic League on Tuesday announced a return to play schedule that will allow fall sports for high schools classified in conferences 4A and below the option to move forward as previously planned.
Locally, that means La Marque and Hitchcock high schools can start their fall sports seasons in August. The first day of practices for football and volleyball will be Aug. 3. Volleyball season will get underway the week of Aug. 10, team tennis and cross country seasons the week of Aug. 17, and football the week of Aug. 27.
“I was incredibly surprised,” La Marque head football coach Shone Evans said. “I would’ve bet a large sum of money that they wouldn’t let us start on Aug. 3. We tentatively had plans to start Sept. 7 and, worst case scenario, in October.”
The UIL’s reasoning for allowing the smaller schools to start sports on time was many of them are in areas where the coronavirus is not too prevalent. But, that is not exactly the case in Galveston County, which saw its positive case total reach 7,479 with 125 new cases Tuesday.
Hitchcock athletic director and head football coach Craig Smith said he’s been in contact with all but one of the Bulldogs’ scheduled opponents, and said they were all comfortable playing in Galveston County. But, Smith also said he is prepared to make changes, if needed.
“We just have to handle everything as best we can and know that there may be some bumps in the road,” Smith said.
Football and volleyball practices for high schools classified in conferences 5A and 6A — locally, meaning Ball High, Clear Creek, Clear Falls, Clear Springs, Dickinson, Friendswood, Santa Fe and Texas City — will begin Sept. 7, per the UIL’s guidance. Games for team tennis and cross country will begin the week of Sept. 7, for volleyball the week of Sept. 24, and for football the week of Sept. 24.
“I was assuming that there was going to be a delay, and we were just waiting for that to come down from the UIL, so we’re excited that we have, at least, some dates to begin working with,” Clear Creek Independent School District athletic director Debbie Fuchs said.
Football teams will still look into playing full 10-game regular season schedules when their seasons start back up, but some are now looking for replacement opponents.
Galveston ISD athletic director Walter Fortune said Ball High has replaced La Marque, which will now start its season earlier than the Tors, with Angleton and Houston Wheatley, whose school district moved the start of school into October, with an open week. The Tors will play Pasadena High on their previously scheduled open week, Fortune said.
“We had already had some conversations with people who we knew were looking and were able to call them and jump onto it,” Fortune said.
Santa Fe is seeking a replacement for non-district Class 4A opponent Needville, athletic director and head football coach Matthew Bentley said. La Marque will look to find fill-ins for its first two opponents — Ball High and Houston Sharpstown — and a scrimmage opponent, Evans said.
There will be no volleyball tournaments, but schools will be allowed to play three matches per week against individual opponents to squeeze in additional competition, Fuchs said.