07-23 football return

Texas UIL this week unveiled schedules for sports to return in the fall. Though some schools in the state will be delayed, none in the Red River Valley will. Pictured, Prairiland wide receiver Eli Rolen catches a pass over a Blue Ridge defender during a previous game.

It’s official — there will be high school football this fall. And though some teams throughout Texas will need to wait a bit longer than usual before they can play it, schools in the Red River Valley should be starting the season right on time.

Texas UIL — the organization responsible for overseeing all high school athletics in the state — earlier this week announced a modified schedule for sports in the coming school year, with different conferences starting at different times.

For 5A and 6A schools — the two largest classifications — the start of the season has been pushed back to Sept. 24, with the state championship not being played until January.

For schools that are 1A-4A, however, football is still currently expected to start on time, with Aug. 27 being the first day for games and the state championships being Dec. 16-19. Paris High School and North Lamar High School — the two largest schools in the area — are both 4A schools.

The plan also rolls out schedules for other fall sports. For 1A-4A conferences, tennis and cross country are slated to begin Aug. 17, and the first day volleyball matches can be held is Aug. 10.

Tennis state championships are scheduled for Nov. 11-12, cross country state championships are expected to be Dec. 5 and volleyball state championships for 1A-4A conferences will be Nov. 18-21.

No state has a higher level of participation in high school football than Texas, with more than 170,000 teenagers across the state participating in the sport at the high school level, and though no local school faces a delayed schedule, the season has been pushed back for roughly 500 schools in the state.

Private schools had previously delayed the starts of their seasons to Sept. 21 in the Southwest Preparatory Conference and Sept. 28 for the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.

When the volleyball season begins on Aug. 10, the matches will be the first high school sporting events in Texas since the region finals of the state basketball tournament, held in early March. The Paris Wildcats was one of the final eight teams in the playoffs, though they fell to the Faith Family Academy Eagles in the region finals.

Additionally, UIL is still enforcing its safety precautions regarding the usage of masks and social distancing during practices and workouts.

Student athletes must maintain social distancing as much as possible when not actively working out at practices, and face masks are similarly required by students when not working out.

The UIL stated that schools should devise their own entry and exit plans that reduce the number of people congregating in workout areas and common nearby gathering zones, such as parking lots. It’s also largely up to the individual school districts to develop mitigation strategies for athletes to access their locker rooms after Monday, with students to arrive at workouts fully in gear and returning home to shower and change before then.

If a person tests positive for Covid-19 or even displays symptoms of the coronavirus, they must meet the following criteria before returning: at least 10 days must pass since symptoms first appeared; those symptoms must have improved; and at least 72 hours must pass since the recovery or “the resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.”

The UIL also laid out a course of action for identifying potential cases on campus, which includes separating the student displaying symptoms until a parent or guardian can pick them up and intensive cleaning of all areas the symptomatic student recently spent time.

There are separate guidelines for responding to lab-confirmed cases of the virus on campus. These include notifying the local health department; closing off areas regularly used by the person with the confirmed Covid-19. They will also be unable to return to the campus until screened by the ISD.

Furthermore, schools were encouraged to continue providing students guidance for working out at home or remotely away from school. This could include measures such as virtual workouts and emailed regimens.

All surfaces in workout areas must be thoroughly disinfected throughout and at the end of every day, and no clothing or towels may be laundered on site or shared during workouts.

“Our goal in releasing this plan is to provide a path forward for Texas students and schools,” UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt said in a press release. “While understanding situations change and there will likely be interruptions that will require flexibility and patience, we are hopeful this plan allows students to participate in the education-based activities they love in a way that prioritizes safety and mitigates the risk of COVID-19 spread.”

Tommy Culkin is a staff writer for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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