BATON ROUGE -- Playing high school football in Louisiana this season is no longer a dream.
After Wednesday’s official announcement by the Louisiana High School Executive Committee that the season can officially kick-off on October 2, the dream has become reality.
The hope for a season has always been in the minds of coaches, players and parents. However, when the LHSAA came out with their summer sports guidelines back in June, the hope felt throughout the world of Louisiana high school football was still in the flicker stage.
Those guidelines were tied to the phases of the state’s re-opening plan, which did not allow for contact in the sport until Louisiana reached Phase III. And, with the governor keeping the state in a perpetual Phase II whirlwind, the reality of high school football playing at all this season remained dim.
Then came August and with it the knowledge that states surrounding Louisiana were allowing their high school teams to play. The patience of parents and fans of the game began to wear extremely thin.
The call for action to be taken allowing football to start became more and more deafening to the LHSAA and legislators alike. Those calls, along with support from the higher-ups in the state government came to a head last Friday, when the House Education Committee held hearings concerning the state of high school football.
After listening to health experts, LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine, parents and even Attorney General Jeff Landry, the committee gave the green light for the LHSAA to move forward.
On Wednesday, Bonine and the rest of the LHSAA Executive Committee unanimously approved a plan that would allow full contact drills and season play no matter what phase the state was in.
The plan addresses several issues, including a start date for full contact (Sept. 10), a date for a fall scrimmage (Sept. 25/26) and a date for the first regular season game (Oct. 1/2). The LHSAA had an original first contest date set for October 8/9, but in a surprising move, pushed that date up one week.
The organization also put forth the dates for the championship games (Dec. 26-28) that will take place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This season all classes and divisions will play their games in New Orleans, as opposed to last season when select schools held their title games at different locations.
“They can start hitting tomorrow,” Bonine said after the meeting Wednesday. “This is what our coaches and players have been working toward. We are excited about it.”
When asked about having to switch gears from simply maintaining their overall fitness at practices to moving full force with contact in a short amount of turnaround time, Sacred Heart head Coach Josh Harper stated, “It’s like drinking water from a firehouse.”
“It’s exciting that’s for sure,” Harper continued. “It will get your blood going. Now it’s about getting back into a routine and working on practice plans. I’ve been ready and know the players have been ready. It’s time to get after it.”
Basile head coach Kevin Bertrand echoes the sentiments of Harper.
“This is what we have been waiting for every since last season ended,” said Bertrand. “Remember, we did not get a spring training, so for the majority of these guys the last contact they made with another player was in November. We are going to ease into it and make sure we are ready to go come the end of the month.”
One situation that the LHSAA did not address was the number of fans that would be allowed to attend the games. As far as Bonine is concerned, getting at least 50 percent stadium capacity is a top priority.
“At Tiger Stadium, 25% is 25,000 fans,” Bonine said. “At our school sites, the numbers are different. We need students in our schools and fans at our games. This is something that is going to continue to evolve as we work with state officials. They set the numbers for capacity and attendance at events.”
Regardless of how many people will actually be able to attend the games, the prospect of definitely having high school football on Friday nights is a dream come true for thousands of players across the state.