By Maurice Patton
Played as a midseason matchup for the first two seasons, the Backyard Bowl rivalry football game between Columbia Central and Spring Hill shifted to Week 1 last year.
Suddenly, that may be a problem.
With the announcement earlier this week by Governor Bill Lee to extend his executive order regarding public activities until Aug. 29, the Lions/Raiders clash – currently scheduled for Aug. 21 – is in jeopardy.
“Yesterday, the Governor’s office extended Tennessee’s COVID-19 State of Emergency until August 29. The Governor’s prior order (No. 38) includes limitations and restrictions on contact sporting events and activities,” Bernard Childress, executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, said in a release Tuesday.
“We are working with the Governor’s office to ensure that our member schools are in compliance with the executive order in regards to athletic participation and contact sports. While the Governor’s order is in place, member schools cannot have any competition or scrimmage with other schools and cannot have close-contact activities during their fundamental practice in the sports of football, … girls soccer, wrestling and basketball.
“Based on the extension of the Governor’s order, football and girls’ soccer cannot begin their seasons as originally scheduled. We are in the process of developing regular-season and postseason options to present to the TSSAA Board of Control for their consideration. The Board will ultimately make the decision as to how this will impact the postseason and if any adjustments can be made to regular-season competition.”
The opening two weeks of the gridiron schedule lists a handful of high-profile contests across the area that now face the possibility of not taking place.
Also set for Week 1 are renewals of rivalries between south Williamson County neighbors Summit and host Independence, as well as Mt. Pleasant and Summertown. Columbia Academy is slated to travel to Marshall County, with Zion Christian scheduled to play at Grace Christian.
Aug. 28 scheduled games include Spring Hill at Summit; Christ Presbyterian Academy at Independence; Dickson County at Columbia Central; and Shelbyville at Columbia Academy.
“Honestly, right now we’re just waiting for more particulars to come out before we make a decision one way or the other,” Maury County Public Schools athletics director Chris Poynter said following Childress’ release. “We’re going to continue to plan that sports will be taking place; they just will be delayed somewhat. We’ll continue with our training and our protocols we’ve outlined for high schools and middle schools beginning Monday (following the conclusion of the TSSAA-mandated two-week dead period).
“We’re trying to wait for more information from the Governor as far as clarifying and from the TSSAA as far as what everything’s going to look like. Once we hear back from that, we can start formulating our course of action. But right now, we’ll still be going on with training, weightlifting, that sort of thing, with the knowledge that fall sports will be delayed this year and we’ll go from there.”
The TSSAA Board of Control will remotely hold a called meeting Wednesday, which was originally expected to address how to proceed for 2021-25 classification in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. It is now expected that plans for the upcoming fall sports season will be discussed as well.
Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mopatton_sports.