Decision day from the University Interscholastic League ended up being kind of a dud for a lot of Texas – unless you’re a student athlete at a Class 6A or 5A school, or unless you play them the first three weeks.
For Kilgore football, that’s a bit of a problem.
The UIL, which governs all things Texas high school sports, announced Tuesday morning that, due to the COVID-19 or coronavirus apparently picking up steam in larger metropolitan areas, that the start of football and volleyball for 6A and 5A programs will be delayed a month. For now, at least, football and volleyball will start on time for all other classifications, 4A and below.
That means a regular start for all programs in the Kilgore News Herald’s coverage area: Kilgore is a 4A program. Sabine and West Rusk are both 3A programs. Overton is a 2A program, and Leverett’s Chapel plays six-man, or 1A, football, and up in volleyball.
The problem for KHS is that, after scrimmages against Gilmer and Carthage, the Bulldogs have three straight 5A opponents to open the season: at Nacogdoches for the season opener Aug. 28, at home against Hallsville on Sept. 4, and at Pine Tree on Sept. 11.
For 6A and 5A schools, which include the Longview and Tyler area schools, as well as Marshall, Lufkin and Texas High, practices won’t begin until Sept. 7. That means Kilgore-Nacogdoches and Kilgore-Hallsville now fall before the UIL will allow games.
KHS Athletic Director and head football coach Mike Wood told the News Herald Tuesday morning he was working on a solution; that solution will be announced here as soon as it’s finalized.
Volleyball at 6A and 5A schools can start playing regular season games on Sept. 14, and football on Sept. 24.
Again, 4A and below can start fall sports on time, meaning football, volleyball, cross country and team tennis, which Kilgore and Kilgore-area schools normally excel. Kilgore has only missed the football playoffs twice since 1995, and has won a state title and gotten to another state title game since then; volleyball at KHS won its first playoff game since the 1990s last year under new head coach Madeline Harris.
Kilgore cross country in both boys and girls has been excellent, with both programs having state entrants; and team tennis is also a regular playoff-holder for the Bulldogs. Since team tennis began at KHS in 1984, Kilgore has never finished lower than third in district play and has made the state team tournament twice.
As far as other area schools, Leverett’s Chapel volleyball has long been a good small-school program; Sabine had its best year ever in football last year (10 wins) and set a school single-season record for volleyball wins, as well; and West Rusk and Overton have had varying degrees of success in football and volleyball over the years.
Kilgore’s current schedule looks like this: they scrimmage at Gilmer on Aug. 14, and at home against Carthage on Aug. 21, both Fridays.
Right now, as mentioned, a trip to Nac is on the books Aug. 28, and a home game against Hallsville Sept. 4. Both of those will have to change, at least the dates. Kilgore visits Pine Tree Sept. 11, hosts Gladewater for homecoming Sept. 18, and visits Palestine Sept. 25. The game against PT is the last one of the season against a program larger than 4A.
Kilgore has an open date Oct. 2, then starts district play at home against Mabank Oct. 9, visits Chapel Hill Oct. 16, hosts Henderson Oct. 23, visits Athens Oct. 30, and finishes out the regular season at home against Lindale on Nov. 6.
Volleyball meets Tyler Lee or John Tyler – or whatever their new names will be – in the first two weeks of the season in early August, games that seem to be canceled, at this particular time. The Lady Bulldogs’ first game of the season appears to be set, at Tatum on Aug. 7 (volleyball always starts a couple of weeks before school). Kilgore’s first home game is scheduled against Brownsboro on Tuesday, Aug. 11.
Tennis actually has two of its first three dates against 5A programs. After opening the season at Wills Point on Aug. 12, coach Jason Maroney’s Bulldogs play at home against Pine Tree and Jacksonville on Aug. 13. Just four days later, they visit Longview.
KHS cross country’s first meet is Saturday, Aug. 22, at Union Grove, and the second is Friday, Aug. 28 at Mineola. They could be affected, though, on Sept. 5, in what is scheduled for a Tyler-hosted event at the University of Texas at Tyler, and on Sept. 12, a meet at Hallsville.
It seems the entire world has been affected somehow by the coronavirus, which has been deadly for about a half-million people worldwide since late 2019. Way of life in the U.S. has been adversely affected, with schools, restaurants, barbers and beauty shops and just about everything else shutting down in March.
The UIL, in delaying the start for 6A and 5A programs, was simply trying to use safeguards to ensure the best possible experience for student athletes and fans, UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt said, in a statement released Tuesday.
“Our goal in releasing this plan is to provide a path forward for Texas students and schools,” Breithaupt said. “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 risk of COVID-19 spread.”
They’re only the latest to adjust. A little more than a week ago, the NJCAA, which governs junior college sports nationally, voted to postpone all fall sports (except practices and some scrimmages) until after the start of the new year, meaning Kilgore College won’t play football or any basketball until 2021 – basketball will start in January, and football in March.