Athletes, coaches anticipate start of prep seasons

Greg Mast
Ottawa High School football team is getting ready for next week's season opener at home against Piper.

After a six-month hiatus, local high school athletes are competing again.

The first competition was Wednesday as the Wellsville High School girls golfers opened their 2020 season. On Saturday, the Eagle volleyball team plays in the Prairie View Tournament.

All the other teams begin in the upcoming week.

“All of the coaches and players are extremely excited to get back in action,” said Shawn Phillips, Ottawa High School athletic/activities director. “With that being said, everyone understands that the opportunity comes with great responsibility.

“As demonstrated during the state basketball tournament, everything can come to a halt very quickly. That's why our coaches spent time developing safety protocols for their programs, and have stressed to players how important it is to adhere to them.”

Central Heights Athletic Director Doug North said playing sports is a step toward getting life back to normal for teens.

“These are trying times, but our goal is to do whatever it takes to provide activities for our kids,” North said. “I'm sure we would all like to be ‘back to normal,’ but our desire to make activities possible is greater than our aspiration to make it normal.”

Spectator attendance will be limited. OHS and Central Heights released their attendance guidelines. The OHS football, soccer and volleyball athletes will receive up to four tickets for family members. Central Heights will issue athletes two tickets for family members.

Schedules are not set in stone, Phillips said.

“In reality, the schedule could change all the way up to the day of competition,” Phillips said. “If there were to be an outbreak at another school, we could potentially lose a game on game day and be scrambling to pick up a new opponent. Everyone will want to keep checking their schedules because what you have today may not be accurate tomorrow.”

North said schedule issues have not been an issue for the Vikings yet.

“We have had some volleyball tournaments that have been changed in format to quads,” he said. “We have not had any football or cross country cancellations or changes as of yet. There has been talk of some cross country meets being consolidated, but nothing official as of right now.”

Phillips said each county and school district have different regulations and guidelines to deal with mitigation of COVID-19.

“With every county and school district having different regulations, scheduling has changed immensely,” Phillips said. “Our varsity football program for example will be playing at home in six out of eight regular season games because we are hosting schools that cannot compete within their county. Those road games have now become home dates.

“We have had individual schools drop out of some of our tournaments. We have also seen some schools cancel their  events all together. Some events are being broken into smaller events. For example, we are hosting JV volleyball on Saturday because the JV league tournament is being spilt to three separate sites. If you checked our schedules last week, you wouldn't have seen that event.”

Phillips said patrons need to be flexible with changes coming on an hourly basis.

“We just ask that everyone be patient,” he said. “We are trying to do everything we can for our students to have a chance to represent OHS.”