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(Not) playing it day-by-day

With covid numbers rising, decisions to play to be made on a week-by-week basis





(Not) playing it day-by-day / January 14, 2021

For the second straight week Halifax County High School student-athletes participating in winter sports have had their schedules disrupted due to the coronavirus.

The first week of postponements was due to other schools in the Piedmont District being delayed in playing due to elevated COVID-19 numbers in their communities. This week’s postponements for the Comets were related to precaution concerning rising numbers in Halifax County.

As a result all practices and workouts for Comet winter sports athletes were put on hold for this week.

Due to the uncertainty right now of how the coronavirus will playout on a daily basis, HCHS athletics director Allen Lawter announced this week that decisions will be reached on Friday regarding whether sports schedules for the next week will move forward.

With member schools of the Virginia High School League (VHSL) using the Championships + 1 calendar to get full sports seasons accomplished, the road to completing a winter sports season will only get more tenuous.

Team openers that were to have taken place starting the week of Jan. 4 were pushed back to Jan. 11. Now a ruling will be made concerning can the sports schedule safely begin this coming Monday.

One of the biggest hurdles of the delays is in using the C+1 calendar as only 60 percent of the regular schedule from previous seasons are played this year. As an example basketball is allowed only 14 games this year in regular season – Halifax had 12 on schedule.

For the Comets, the first week of postponements affected two games. The second week of remaining idle set aside three contest.

So out of the 12-game schedule five games are already having to be rescheduled. With region play starting Feb. 8 for basketball, Feb. 1 for all other winter sports it’s going to be a tight deadline getting winter sports in.

Comet wrestling and swim teams have even less competitions than basketball, eight and six, respectively. Swim needs to complete regional play by Feb. 6 and wrestling by Feb. 13.

Lawter says the road ahead will be difficult, but an attempt will be made to play this winter.

“We’re going to play as many games as we can when we’re allowed to play,” Lawter said. “Will we make them all up - probably not? Probably because we’re not guaranteed that the other school will even be able to play.”

Seven schools – Bassett, Magna Vista, Martinsville, Patrick County, Tunstall, GW-Danville and Halifax – comprise the Piedmont District. As of Friday of last week Martinsville, Bassett and Magna Vista were still on the VHSL’s delayed list for winter sports. Patrick County and Tunstall were also in delay.

With only seven schools in the district, the Comets are having to look at other possible options to see a full schedule, or something close to one. Lawter says there is still a whole lot to be decided including post season competition – if they can get there.

“We only had 12 games scheduled to start with because we stayed within the district,” Lawter said. Three of the schools have not been allowed to play and that’s not to say that we can’t go outside if we get clearance to play outside of the district.”

Several high schools have had to go outside of their usual footprints to have teams to compete against this year. When neighboring Mecklenburg County canceled winter and fall sports, and several other schools in the James River District canceled winter sports, member schools that were still playing faced this situation – scheduling teams outside of their district and area was their answer for holding competitions.

Lawter said some of the scheduling challenges are related to when the schedules were first set up; schools tried to stay within their districts.

“When all this came about we thought we’d be good to go, play our 12 games and move on from there … but it didn’t happen the way we hoped it would happen,” Lawter said.

“But we will play as many games as we can play. Then if we’re allowed to continue to play we will proceed to the regional tournament. Seeding is still up in the air right now.”

Lawter offered up as an example this scenario: “I could be given the clearance to play on the last week of the regular season and play two or three ball games. But Amherst could play 12 or 14 games. If we’re (Comets) 2-0 do we deserve the same [consideration] if they’re 8-6? So those are some things we’re looking at to determine how we’re going to do them.” Halifax competes in VHSL Region 4D as does Amherst and six other high schools.

Since March, when the pandemic shutdown began, a plan to return Comet athletics to competition has always been a focus for Lawter; albeit in a safe manner. Nearly 10 months later that same thought pattern still drives the decision making process on a local level.

HCPS superintendent Mark Lineburg, HCHS principal Michael Lewis and Lawter along with others have been consistent in siding with safety as they determine the best path ahead.

Lawter said a lot of what can happen this season is still based more on external conditions. “Playing for the time being will become a weekly decision of whether we feel like it is safe to put our kids out there.”

“And then of course as we’ve said before it’s not just us making the decision,” said Lawter. “As far as competition they may not feel comfortable playing – it’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of things to consider.”

Lawter said the group making decisions knows not everyone is going to agree one way or the other regarding how they determine if the Comets play or not. Their main focus is allowing the kids to play only if it is safe.

“We consider safety our upmost priority; the safety of our kids, workers and all,” Lawter said. “We as a group make these decisions with a lot of weight on our shoulders to do the best we can in making the best decision.

“We realize not everybody is going to agree with us either way. I kind of feel like it’s almost a no win situation where we’re kind of like an official here - somebody is not going to agree with us.”

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