DELAWARE PUNTING ON HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS IN THE FALL
By MATT SANTOLERI
While New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has given the green light for schools that are participating in remote learning to play fall sports during its proper season, the other states in the Tri-State area aren’t quite so “full steam ahead. “
The PIAA may not be following Gov. Tom Wolf’s “strong recommendation” across the state to cancel all youth sports until 2021, although some areas are opting out on their own in response to his recommendation like the Philadelphia Public League, which has already stated it won't be playing sports this fall.
This could obviously change in the near future, but the PIAA is at least exhausting every possibility before they throw in the towel on their own as of now.
In Delaware, a decision has already been made and the verdict isn’t an outright canceling of all fall sports, but a change in start time which could see high school football played in the springtime with a reduced schedule or possibly not at all.
Schools in Delaware are going to open up under Governor John Carney’s “Scenario 2” model which is a mixture of in-person and remote learning, with a large focus on safety precautions to curb the transmission of COVID-19, but kids won’t see the playing field until December with the start of the Winter sports season followed by fall sports in mid-February of 2021 and Spring sports in mid-April of 2021.
The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) will also be entering its second stage of their Return to Play model which forbids formal practices or competitions but does allow for teams to conduct open gyms and begin conditioning programs.
Unfortunately for Football and Wrestling athletes who were looking for positive news from the DIAA’s Board of Directors meeting, these sports are barred from participation past these gym and conditioning sessions until the third stage of the Return to Play process is enacted.
Delaware Division of Public Health is leading the charge on all protocols and procedures which means unlike Gov. Wolf’s “strong recommendation”, the DPH’s guidelines are non-negotiable for the DIAA’s Return to Play process.
During the DIAA’s Board of Directors meeting, DIAA Executive Director Donna Polk, admitted that nothing is set in stone with this plan to get back.
“The virus is still here. It’s not going anywhere right now,” Polk said. “It’s just a wait and see kind of game.” It wasn’t all doom and gloom though during the meeting as she went on to recognize the heavy importance that sports play in the academic arena."
Polk added, “We are thankful to all involved for their shared commitment to get sports back in the educational setting while realizing the significant benefit to the emotional, mental, social and physical well-being for student-athletes.”
The possibility of the 2020 Football season not even happening in 2021 has seen a big domino fall for the competitive landscape.
Middletown High School’s starting QB Braden Davis, who is a four star QB recruit, who led the Cavaliers to the state championship game last season as a sophomore, decided to transfer to a Florida school just 25 miles west of Orlando ((Clermont (Fla.) Lake Minneola).
Davis is currently thought of as the No. 5 best dual-threat QB in the nation according to 247Sports going into his junior year and has received scholarship offers from NCAA powerhouses like LSU, Clemson, Georgia, Florida, Florida State and Penn State to just name a few.
The risk of stagnation and not showing these teams he’s the guy they think he is was just too much risk for Davis.
There are far more high school athletes in Delaware that aren’t on a fast track like Davis to not only a Power Five scholarship but a suspected NFL Draft call.
It will be interesting to monitor if more of the premier football talent in the state that shares his ability to transfer out of the state, does just that.
2017 saw fellow Middletown Cavalier and 2019 Pro Bowl participant, Chris Godwin, get drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In 2019 safety Darnell Savage J.R, who played his high school ball at Caravel Academy in Bear, Delaware, heard his name called in the first round by the Green Bay Packers.
NFL level talent is being produced in the “Small Wonder”, its going to be interesting to see how they can keep that talent in state while providing enough evidence that they can operate high school football in the Spring with a safe playing environment.
Football in the spring will be weird to see for many Delawareans like myself, but the alternative of no high school football at all is tough to swallow.
Hopefully we are all in a much better place come 2021 and the fear of no season that drove Davis to move out of state, doesn’t become a reality for the many athletes who have been preparing all summer for a season. *
Middletown High School’s starting QB Braden Davis transferred to Clermont High School - outside of Orlando shortly after the announcement that the DE football season was being postponed .Photo from 247sports.com.