With many uncertainties still present for fall sports in Kentucky, football coaches from Bowling Green’s high schools were invited to speak at Wednesday’s virtual Bowling Green Rotary Club meeting to share what they know about plans currently in place and what it’s been like coaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I always tell the kids and I was told this by Houston Nutt, my college coach who I loved dearly, is the greatest ability a man has is the ability to adjust,” Warren Central coach Cary Fowler said in the Zoom meeting. “You don’t deal your own hand, and that’s the thing I’m looking at right now, is that we’ve got to have the ability to adjust. Nobody can take our belief away. We’ve got to believe and know we’re going to play during those tough times.”

There has been plenty of adjustments made this summer.

The KHSAA Board of Control approved a plan July 28 to leave fall sports in the fall season, pushing back the start of practices to Aug. 24 with the first week limited to 7½ hours. The first competitions in football can be played Sept. 11 – a change from the original Aug. 21 start date.

“At least we’ve still got hope,” Bowling Green coach Mark Spader said. “There’s a lot of states that have canceled fall sports, so I admire the fact and appreciate the fact that our state association has continued to look at the picture outside of our state, within our state and given us some dates their last meeting of being able to possibly put on helmets Aug. 24 and hopefully kicking off Sept. 11.”

The Board of Control has another scheduled meeting Aug. 20 to follow up examining the situation surrounding COVID-19. Football postseason format – with four teams from each district making the first round – stayed unchanged, which Spader said surprised him. The dates did change, however, with postseason pushed back a week with first-round games Nov. 13-14 and the finals at Kroger Field in Lexington scheduled Dec. 11-12.

After enacting a dead period March 13, the KHSAA decided May 28 to permit workouts in small groups starting June 15 and waived the annual two-week dead period.

“When we went home in March and couldn’t really do anything with our kids until June 15, I think just coming back and doing anything with our players – they were all eager to get back. We went about eight straight weeks there where all you could do essentially was some conditioning, and that got old after about six weeks and we fought through it,” Warren East coach Jeff Griffith said. “Who likes to just go out and run?

“I think when we figured out we were going to get an opportunity to start practice on the 24th, that kind of got a pep in our step that we were going to get to play some football. ... I think that everyone’s excited and ready to play. We’re going to have a short turnaround once we get started compared to what we usually do, but we’ll take that over nothing at all.”

The July 28 decision by the KHSAA did create scheduling hardships for teams across the state, however. The change in start date forced teams to decide whether to eliminate their scheduled games the first three weeks or move them later in the season, and then decide if they would add games during their previously scheduled open week or in the added week Nov. 6.

“With the news that we just received from KHSAA, this week has kind of been hectic because it changed our schedule and we’ve had to try to be in contact with people to schedule other games,” Greenwood coach William Howard said.

The decision forced the elimination of some games between Bowling Green’s schools. For example, there will be no opossum changing hands this fall.

The annual meeting between Greenwood and Warren East – in which the victor is presented a stuffed opossum head in what has been dubbed the “Possum Bowl” – is off the schedule for both teams. The Raiders also lost their opener against Portland (Tenn.) in the Kenway Concrete Bowl and will now open against South Warren.

Among other changes between Bowling Green’s five high schools: Greenwood will now open the season at Warren Central on Sept. 11, and Warren Central’s early-season games against South Warren and Bowling Green are now off the schedule. South Warren coach Brandon Smith was not present at the virtual meeting.

The Dragons are currently on a 45-game losing streak, and the second-year Warren Central coach wasn’t opposed to the move to try to get games against teams closer to the same level as his, instead of the Class 5A powers, as the Dragons try to rebuild the program.

“No offense, I was kind of glad to get coach Spader and coach Smith off the schedule. We were supposed to play at Apollo (Aug. 21),” Fowler said. “ ... Not having those guys to play right off the bat – but we do play Greenwood the first game and that’s going to be our bowl game with the Warren County schools, and coach Howard does a tremendous job. I really wish, Coach Howard, you weren’t on the schedule either.”

Spader and Griffith said they haven’t had any problems since returning to workouts, but acknowledge concerns from parents, including those that come as schools consider reopening for the fall, while saying none are dead-set against playing.

“When we got started back up, I think most parents obviously have some concerns,” Griffith said. “But I think at the same time they also have the concerns of their kids not being involved in something.”

Howard said he had a couple of situations occur where he has told players not to come in for safety reasons, but has not had anybody test positive for COVID-19. He also said that once those players tested negative, parents asked when their son could come back to workouts. Fowler also said that he hasn’t had any players test positive for COVID-19, but has had some parents express concerns about risk of spread with vulnerable family members living in the household.

For now, however, the coaches will move ahead anticipating games to begin Sept. 11, with a chance to give seniors one last fall season – something they were unsure of before the July 28 meeting.

“That’s one of those things that when you begin to think there’s a chance we might not play, it’s just sad at the thought that you’ve got a group of 22 seniors there that may not get the opportunity to take the field,” Spader said. “But there’s worse things in life, we keep things in perspective and control the things that we can control.”{&end}

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit bgdailynews.com.

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