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NY football teams brace for fall sports decision

This Monday would have marked the first big date on the New York state high school football schedule.

In mid-to-late August, teams would report for their first practices after weeks of preparation from the coaching staff, off-season conditioning and workouts. But rather than planning practice this August, all New York’s gridiron coaches can do is wait, and encourage their players to work out on their own in hopes of playing a season later.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) postponed all fall high school sports by a month (from Aug. 24 to Sept. 21) in July while it waited for guidance from the state government. That guidance appears to be near, Governor Andrew Cuomo indicated, saying “we’ll have an answer within the week,” on Wednesday, regarding high school sports.

But with football considered a high-risk sport, coaches have prepared for the possibility they won’t play this fall, and instead try the NYSPHSAA’s stated backup plan of moving football to the spring.

Bolivar-Richburg coach Steve Smith, who sits on the Section 5 football committee, said the section has prepared schedules for both scenarios.

“WE (THE Section 5 committee), to all coaches and athletic directors last week, sent out two separate schedules,” Smith said. “One that would start if we get started on Sept. 21, essentially the schedule would be October and November, the second schedule was based on the condensed seasons, so that was more like a March-April schedule. So what we did with those was send it out to all coaches and athletic directors, just to do our best to keep them in the loop with what we’re getting from the state, which at this point we haven’t gotten that much.

“Obviously, we just have to be as patient as we can and see what we’re allowed to do, if we’re allowed to do anything.”

Smith said he’s encouraged players to stay in shape, but doubts they’re close to football-ready without the team’s usual summer workouts.

“My entire staff, which I have several coaches who their sons play, we just wanted to get the word out back in June, make sure that you’re working out and doing everything you can on your own, knowing that we’re just not allowed to have any contact with them,” he said. “It was such a strange summer, nothing that any of us has obviously gone through.

“I know a lot of our kids were playing travel baseball and doing some other stuff, so there’s no doubt they’re active but they’re not football active, so that was discussed too. What happens if we’re cleared to go on Sept. 21, are we really expecting to play in two weeks, not having worked with our kids all summer?”