Irma’s mess persists for high-school sports programs -- Observer Preps

The storm may be gone, but the scheduling and conditioning issues created by Hurricane Irma’s path through Central Florida still are being felt.

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  • | 4:04 p.m. September 22, 2017
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Hurricane Irma may be no more, but its effects linger.

With Orange County Public Schools closed from Sept. 8 through Sept. 15, no games or practices were held. Only local volleyball teams returned to action last weekend, with a handful competing in the Winter Park Classic at the Orlando Sports Center and others competing at a tournament in Tampa.

Given the once-a-week nature of its schedule, football is the sport that has been most dramatically affected by the storm and its corresponding scheduling challenges. 

With few exceptions, no football games were played in Central Florida last week.

This latest round of postponements compounds what has already transpired this season. 

Many teams were unable to play during Week Two because of a band of thunderstorms that rolled through Central Florida Sept. 1 — and many of the games that were played were called final at halftime. As for Week Three, many teams were able to successfully move their games up one day ahead of Irma, from Sept. 8 to Sept. 7, but not all were.

As a result, there are teams around Central Florida and the state that, despite it being Week Five, are preparing to play just their second or third game of the fall. Trinity Prep, for instance, has played just once this season.


Few good options

This has created a myriad of issues, including the need to make sure district games are played despite the cancellations throwing off the new point system environment.Coaches and administrators want to do their best to make sure the student-athletes get as close to a complete season as possible.

One option suggested by some as a solution — adding an extra week to the regular season and moving the entire FHSAA State Series Playoffs back a week — will not work because of availability issues with Camping World Stadium, where the FHSAA Football Finals will be played Dec. 7 to 9. 

The next week the facility will start prepping for bowl season, beginning with the AutoNation Cure Bowl Dec. 16.

So, in a case with few desirable options, administrators are doing their best to roll with the punches. Orange County Public Schools announced Sept. 13 that its solution to the games lost Sept. 15 would be to move those games to Monday, Oct. 9. Corresponding with that change, OCPS games scheduled for Friday, Oct. 6, have been moved up one day to Thursday, Oct. 5. Games scheduled for Friday, Oct. 13, remain unchanged.

Teams that did not have a bye week originally scheduled for Oct. 6 or Oct. 13 will be playing a total of three regulation football games in nine days. Although there is speculation that pushback from parents regarding player safety could cause the district to reevaluate this plan, as of press time, that remains the course of action.


Three games, nine days

This means Winter Park (3-0) and Edgewater (2-1) will be playing their own respective mini-gauntlets between Oct. 5-9.

Winter Park will play Olympia Oct. 5, Colonial Oct. 9 and University Oct. 13. Olympia is a playoff team from a season ago, and the following two games are important district contests for the Wildcats.

Edgewater will be facing Lake Howell Oct. 5, Ocoee Oct. 9 and Lake Minneola Oct. 13. Those games are district contests, meaning in addition to the short turnaround, the three games could very well decide the playoff hopes for head coach Cameron Duke’s team.

“The thing is, is that we are all in the same boat,” Duke said. “It’s not like somebody is getting more of an advantage than the other, so it is what it is, and it’s something that we can’t control. We’re just going to focus and get better each day.”

To accommodate some of these woes, the FHSAA has declared that teams can practice on Sundays if their district approves. It also has suggested the eight-game minimum of the new point system may be waived on a case-by-case basis.

Bishop Moore’s game against Poinciana — originally scheduled for Sept. 15 — has been moved to Monday, Oct. 16, the first day of its bye week. Although there has been discussion about adding a game later that week on Friday, Oct. 20, for now, the Hornets (2-0) are readying to play two games in a span of four days, with a game already scheduled for Oct. 13 at Tavares.

“It’s better to play than not to play — that’s how I feel,” Hornets head coach Matt Hedrick said. 

Both coaches acknowledged the scheduling update will present a challenge. 

“It’s just hoping you stay injury-free during that time and that guys can get enough rest,” Duke said.

But each also said the kids, themselves, will respond.

“The kids generally are more excited about playing games than practicing,” Hedrick said. “So it puts them in a pretty good frame of mind when they have an opportunity to get ready for games — there is more of a sense of urgency, and they’re more excited about it.”


Sports Editor Steven Ryzewski and Associate Editor Troy Herring contributed to this piece.


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