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Prep football season slated to begin Sept. 4

By Tim Croft
The Star

As of right now, today, this minute, Friday night lights for the high school football season are scheduled to power up in Gulf County on Friday, Sept. 4. 

The key words in that sentence, Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School Coach and Athletic Director Bobby Johns said, is “right now.” 

“Right now, I have all my varsity and junior varsity games confirmed,” Johns said. “Right now, we are go.” 

During its most recent board meeting, the Florida High School Athletics Association voted to allow fall sports to begin “official” practices this week, if districts were able. 

Four South Florida districts, where COVID-19 has hit particularly hard, are not part of the decision to move ahead with fall sports. 

Schools will also be able to opt out of the state championship series by Sept. 18, providing some flexibility. 

The decision by the FHSAA board was contrary to a recommendation from the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee which wanted to delay the start of fall sports with the pandemic raging. 

“Football is on and we are welcoming fans,” said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton.  

Norton added that the district would be encouraging social distancing in the stands, but that “the individual person is responsible for social distancing.” 

The FHSAA decision places all other fall sports under their normal calendars and does not impact winter or spring sports. 

Football games will officially get underway Sept. 4, with both local teams traveling. 

While the FHSAA was working through the process for sports, local coaches have been preparing. 

Johns and Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School Coach Tanner Jones simply extended summer conditioning and workouts while waiting on an official start. 

The goal, Johns said, was to have the players ready and prepared whenever the FHSAA announced its decision, given that it would likely provide no more than a two- or three-week turnaround.  

Both teams began “official” practices this week, despite not much assistance from the weather. 

The Tiger Sharks and Gators will also compete again this season in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, culminating in playoffs prior to the beginning of the state playoffs. 

One thing noteworthy about the schedules is Port St. Joe’s lack of home games.  

As currently constituted, the Tiger Sharks, in their first year under Jones, have just two home games and finish the regular season with four consecutive road games. 

Schedules: 

Port St. Joe will open the season at Marianna

Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School 

JV 

Sept. 17 – at Wewahitchka 

Sept. 24 – Wakulla Riversprings 

Oct. 1 – Wewahitchka 

Oct. 8 – North Bay Haven 

Oct. 15 – at Cottondale 

Varsity 

Sept. 4 – at Marianna 

Sept. 11 – Vernon 

Sept. 18 – South Walton 

Sept. 25 – at Rutherford 

Oct. 2 – at Graceville 

Oct. 9 – at Blountstown 

Oct. 16 – at Wewahitchka 

Oct. 23-Nov. 6 – SSAC Conference playoffs 

Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School 

The Gators open the season at Cottondale

JV 

Sept. 10 – at Liberty County 

Sept. 17 – Port St. Joe 

Sept. 22 – Franklin County 

Oct. 1 – at Port St. Joe 

Oct. 8 – Cottondale 

Oct. 15 – at Bozeman 

Varsity 

Sept. 4 – at Cottondale 

Sept. 11 – Franklin County 

Sept. 18 – at Hamilton County 

Sept. 25 – Valiant Cross 

Oct. 2 – at North Bay Haven 

Oct. 9 - Liberty County (Homecoming) 

Oct. 16 – Port St. Joe 

Oct. 23-Nov. 6 – SSAC playoffs