Virginia High School League proposes schedule for athletics

The Virginia High School League has released a draft of the 2020-21 sports schedule, giving the first indications of what high school sports will look like this year.

The schedule, which will begin with winter sports in December, was released after the VHSL’s executive committee meeting on Aug. 24 and offered to schools across the state for feedback. An official schedule will be voted on at the committee’s next meeting on Sept. 3.

Under the proposed schedule, all teams would play around 60 percent of the regular number of games. Basketball teams will have 14 regular season games, baseball, softball and volleyball will have 12 games each, field hockey, soccer and tennis will play 10 games and football will only play six.

“Six games is better than zero games,” said Louisa County High School football coach Will Patrick.

Winter sports will play first, with basketball teams holding their first practices on Dec. 7, and the first games on Dec. 21. Other winter sports, including wrestling, swimming and indoor track will begin practicing on Dec. 14. Their games will start on Dec. 28.

“I just hope we will be able to play a season and have the opportunity to compete in the postseason,” said Lions’ girls’ basketball coach Nick Schreck. “The seniors this year, who have stuck it out through everything the past four years, in my opinion deserve to get the opportunity to play and to see what their hard work and dedication can help us accomplish this season.”

The varsity football team, whose season was moved to February along with other fall sports, including volleyball, golf and field hockey, will begin practices on Feb. 4. 

The first of the six game dates will be on, Feb. 22. The second game will be the following Saturday. The remaining games will be held on Fridays.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Patrick said. “It’s a new challenge. The kids are working hard and they want to get out there and play.”

Only the top four teams from each region will continue into postseason play, meaning there will only be two regional football games this year. Any team that doesn’t qualify for the regional tournament can play one additional game with another non-qualifying team.

Postseason play will look different for most sports this year. Basketball and some other sports are eliminating the quarterfinal round of the state championship tournament, meaning only the top team from each region will advance to states. Cross country will limit the number of participants at the state meet by only allowing the winning team from each region and the top five individual runners to advance.

A big change for the track and field teams is that the sport will not use qualifying standards this season. Only the top performers in each event (top three in indoor track and top four in outdoor track) at the regional championship will advance to states. 

“It’s probably something that will have to be done to control the number of athletes at states,” said Louisa County High School track and field coach Jerry Cutright. “The standards are nice to have for athletes who miss regionals because they’re injured or sick. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Even though the seasons will look different, both coaches and athletes are anxious for the chance to play.

“We need high school sports, especially football,” Patrick said. “Not just for the players, but for the fans, for the parents and for the school. We’re missing school spirit. We’re not going to get that back until we get sports back.”

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