Hopes of beginning high school football season as scheduled were dashed Monday when Gov. Bill Lee extended his executive order that stresses social distancing and restricts contact sports.
The governor’s order extends until Aug. 29 – a time when Warren County was already scheduled to have its first two football games in the books.
The TSSAA Board of Control held a special called meeting Wednesday to discuss four plans of action. Board members are scheduled to meet again this coming Wednesday, July 8, to vote on which plan to adopt.
“Talking among our coaching staff and with some of our players, I think it’s all pretty unanimous we want Option 1,” said Warren County High School football coach Matt Turner. “It’s all about making the playoffs. Under Option 1, the top four teams in each region would make the playoffs, which we have a shot of being one of those top four this year. Option 4 doesn’t have the playoffs at all and I think that idea has already been pretty much dismissed. Other options don’t have four teams making the playoffs and I think it would be tough for us to make the playoffs in our region, which is the toughest region in the state, if just the top two teams make it.”
The Pioneers got in roughly three weeks of workouts in June before the TSSAA dead period. Coach Turner said his players were out of shape initially but their level of fitness improved dramatically during conditioning drills.
Turner had plans to participate in 7-on-7 competitions after the TSSAA dead period ends this week. However, the TSSAA has forbidden these competitions, which are passing scrimmages with quarterbacks and receivers facing linebackers and DBs.
If the TSSAA does adopt Plan 1, the Pioneers would not start the season against DeKalb County in Smithville. Instead, the Pioneers would travel to Murfreesboro to face Blackman for their opening game on Sept. 18.
That would be a difficult challenge right out of the gate, but Turner says he’s happy with any scenario that involves playing football.
“As long as we’re working toward a season, that’s good news,” said Turner. “I know what happened with the spring sports and I don’t want to see that happen to us. I’m excited and hopeful the TSSAA is working toward a plan.”
Turner said he has hopes of bringing back the Nurseryman’s Bowl, which hasn’t been played in more than 25 years. He said that could be likely this year with quality teams looking for games at the end of the season.
“We’re going to keep moving forward and keep doing what we can do,” said Turner. “That means we’re going to be back at work for practice on Monday at 4 p.m. We’ll resume where we left off and we can still do things we were doing before the dead period. If nothing else, this is a great opportunity as a coach to teach these players about life. You have to be able to roll with the punches. Control what you can control and adapt to everything else.”