St. Ed’s starts football practice but cancels season opener

The St. Edward’s football team’s season-opening home game on Sept. 25 has been canceled because Athletic Director Jeff Lamscha couldn’t assure the opponent the Pirates would be ready to play after they delayed the start of fall practice for two weeks because of coronavirus-related concerns.

Lamscha said Sunday he was still searching for an opponent to replace the Eagle’s View Academy of Jacksonville, which dropped St. Edward’s from its schedule when the Pirates couldn’t commit to playing the game.

If Lamscha is unable to find an opponent, the Pirates will open their season Oct. 2 at home against Cedar Creek Christian, another Jacksonville school.

St. Edward’s administrators met shortly before the Labor Day weekend and decided it was safe for the football team to start fall practice on Sept. 8 – two weeks after classes began on campus – giving the Pirates enough time to prepare for their first game.

Before administrators made that decision, however, Eagle’s View was presented with an opportunity to schedule another opponent, and Lamscha agreed to cancel the game.

“We were still deciding when we’d start football, and they needed to know whether we’d play,” Lamscha said. “They had another school that wanted to play on that date, and I didn’t think it was fair for us to prevent them from playing when we weren’t sure.

“It was a mutual agreement.”

The cancellation leaves St. Edward’s with only four regular-season games – the Sunshine State Conference playoffs are scheduled to begin Nov. 6 – so Lamscha said he’s “doing everything he can” to fill the open date.

“The kids want to play, and we’re trying to give them the opportunity,” Lamscha said. “We want them to have as much of a season as possible.”

Still, Lamscha defended the school’s decision to postpone the start of fall practice, which the Florida High School Athletic Association allowed to begin on Aug. 24.

“We were aware of what other schools [that started practice in August] were doing, but, as far as I’m concerned, we did the right thing,” Lamscha said. “Our priority is the kids’ safety.”

The FHSAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee recommended that teams not start practice until after schools open, so the panel could collect data and analyze trends related to the impact of students returning to in-classroom learning on the spread of COVID-19.

Lamscha said St. Edward’s administrators abided by SMAC’s community benchmarks – they included a rate of new COVID-19 cases below 5 percent for 14 days – before approving the start of fall practice.

The FHSAA also required teams have at least two weeks of practices before their first games.

Lamscha said St. Edward’s players were required to fill out COVID-related questionnaires last week and continue to have their body temperatures taken before practices. They’re also wearing masks during warmups and using the locker room in shifts.

Coaches, who also are wearing masks, are cognizant of social-distancing protocols, limiting close contact to less than 15 minutes for the team’s 24 players.

“We’re operating within all the recommended guidelines and protocols, which is what we need to do to play a complete season,” Lamscha said, adding that he knew of no students who chose to not play because of the pandemic.

“This is going to be a day-by-day thing, but we’re not going to take any unnecessary chances,” he said.

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