Alone on Friday night

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 20, 2004

As Hurricane Ivan approached landfall, several area high schools had made alternate plans to play their scheduled Friday night football games. But, on Wednesday morning, those alternate plans were cancelled when the Alabama High School Athletic Association announced the postponement of this weekend's athletic events.

"We have our advisory on the site and certainly we want people to know that they can call here and talk to us in person if they need to," said Dan Washburn, executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association. "We are looking at all possibilities right now, but that is not determined as of yet."

Nearly two hours after that quote was given, the AHSAA released this statement to the media: "We are going to call off all of our football games and all other athletic contests scheduled Thursday, Friday and Saturday because of the weather conditions and aftermath of all the projected winds and rain," said Dan Washburn, Executive Director Dan Washburn announced. "The safety of all the people that are involved with athletic events is a primary concern."

Before that announcement was made, the only association to cancel their games had been the Alabama Independent School Association. Their decision benefited Fort Dale Academy.

Fort Dale, who was originally scheduled to travel down to Mobile Christian School had their game cancelled and then rescheduled for Nov. 5

The AISA chose to extend their season by one week and reschedule all the games that were to be played this Friday night. The extension of the regular season has forced AISA to move their playoffs back a week. The first round of the A, AA, and AAA AISA playoffs will now begin Nov. 12.

In an interview given to the Mobile Register earlier in the week, Joe Downey, coach at Mobile Christian said: "You could lose power, you could lose the lights on your field, you could lose water, you've got a lot of little things that could go wrong to where it's not really safe to play. Then you've got the kids and their families straightening out things at home. That's got to be the No. 1 priority. Some of ours are leaving to go to Tennessee, Mississippi, so it's going to be a while until you see them."

In the public schools, Georgiana was scheduled to play host to No. 9 Washington County in 2A and Greenville High was planning on a match-up with the No. 2 ranked Charles Henderson High School Trojans in 5A football.

McKenzie was the only school that traveled Friday night. They were slated to go to Zion Chapel for a 1A region game.

According to the press release issued by the AHSAA, all games scheduled to be played this weekend, the weekend of Sept. 16-18, mainly all region games, will be moved to the 10th week of the season, Oct. 28-30.

None may be rescheduled prior to that time. As for non-region opponents: AHSAA says that the games of Oct. 28-30, all non-region games, will be moved forward a week to Nov. 4-6.

But with announcements from both the AISA and the AHSAA, there will be no high school or private school athletic activity of any kind this weekend.

Georgiana and Washington County had planned to reschedule their 2A match-up for Monday at 5 p.m. at Georgiana High School.

"We had moved it to 5 p.m. because of travel for Washington County," said Roland Petty, principal of Georgiana High School. "There will be no Pee-Wee game Saturday night, and our game is going to be rescheduled. The 5 p.m. time is to accommodate Washington County and their travel and their time. Also we have graduation exams next week."

"The games that were scheduled will be played and that tenth game will be pushed up, adding a week to the season," Petty said after the news of the cancellations. "The last plans were to play on Monday night and the state made this ruling. it just adds a week to an already long season. But it was probably the best to do with the scenario we were facing. Probably as good a plan as could be put into use."

Wayne Hinton, Washington County High School principal was unavailable for comment.

McKenzie, who would have traveled Friday night to Zion Chapel had temporarily cancelled their meeting, before the statewide postponement had been made.

"It's going to be possibly Monday, said Randy Williams, principal of McKenzie School, Tuesday morning before the announcement was made. "We cancelled it because we don't know if we are going to have power, if the field is going to be playable or if there were going to be power poles down."

Williams was unavailable for comment on the announcement.

But for Williams the thought, however, of opening the school on Monday is even in debate.

"I don't know if we are even going to have school on Monday," Williams said. "It's going to be hard to run a school with no power. There will be no bells and no way to get the kids out of the building if there was a fire. We have a plan where one of us would run up and down the hall with a loud speaker, but still. Also, there is no way to feed the kids, unless we can find a school that is cooking and bring some food in. You open yourself up to a lot of liability when you try to run a school with no electricity."

One school did step to the forefront and rescheduled their game for a date less than 24 hours following the original date of Friday at 7 p.m.

Greenville High is set to play their 5A regional game against No. 2 Charles Henderson High School on Saturday at 2 p.m., but that game too has been cancelled and rescheduled for later in the season.

"I don't know if it's a relief for us," said Alvin Briggs, coach of the Greenville High Tigers after the announcement had been made. "We had been getting ready to play someone we like to play. But, its good that we can concentrate on the weekend. But it's still going to be exciting getting ready to play Troy."

Before the announcement was made, Briggs and Charles Henderson coach Hugh Fountain had picked out a date for their meeting.

"We are going to play Saturday," Briggs said. "We hope that the field is playable, but if it has storm damage, hopefully it won't, but we would have to go another date. When something like this happens, you have to give a date and obviously we can't play on Friday so Saturday at 2 is the tentative scheduled date, we'll see what happens from there."

For Greenville, the relationship between Briggs and Charles Henderson Coach Hugh Fountain helped in the decision making process.

"There are some things you don't have any control over and we are just trying to get over the weather the best you can," said Fountain.

"I've been in contact with Alvin basically everyday and he told me this morning that we've moved it to Saturday, He also told me if it was possible we'd try to play on Friday. If everything was fine and the weather was ok, then I think we could. "

"But, at the same time I think you've got to be realistic and have a plan A and a plan B,"

What effect does a change in schedule have on the kids involved?

"We've pretty much talked to the kids all week about the possibility of having to move and reschedule the game," Fountain said.

"When Hurricane Opal came through eight or nine years ago Troy had a lot of damage. So people in Troy are worried about it. When you get to looking at football and looking at displacing people and the weather, football has it's place, but you have to look at what's more important."

The state association is very concerned about what their member schools are doing.

"There is an advisory on our website and anyone can go to it," said Dan Washburn, Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

"The advisory right now is up on our website, and our directive is to put safety first."

But if you can't play on the scheduled date, you moved to the next available date, Friday to Saturday, Saturday to Monday. But there is no way we can predict what kind of aftermath this storm is going to bring with it. We ask the schools to contact this office on postponements and rescheduling of games."

"Our contact information is on the website. Butler County Superintendent Mike Reed put everything in perspective.

"The main reason is safety," Reed said.

"We don't know what the condition of the field are going to be in, whether or not they are going to have power, whether or not they are going to have structures standing, and this is mainly for the safety of the fans."