"What's next?" That's the chief concern of Steve Gates in regards to the GHSA's recent decision to delay the start of high school football's regular season by two weeks. Gates, the new Cass head coach, …
That's the chief concern of Steve Gates in regards to the GHSA's recent decision to delay the start of high school football's regular season by two weeks.
Gates, the new Cass head coach, understands that the push back helps his team be more prepared for its season opener Sept. 4 against Dawson County. That being said, Gates, the human, is concerned that Monday's announcement to postpone the start of the season might not be the final word on the subject.
"I'm still a little wary," he said Thursday. "I was hoping everything would be on track for a normal Aug. 21 start. This concerns me. I've talked to close friends in the industry who are kind of excited about it, but something's not right, to be honest with you, I feel.
"I'm still optimistic. I think we'll play, but it's just not a good sign that they would bump it back, compared to the full progression that they've done so far. I'm not saying they're right or wrong in their decision. It just makes me a little more wary than I was before."
As for the rules and regulations sent out by the GHSA in accordance with the start of next week's acclimation period, Gates remains committed to doing everything he can to limit unnecessary exposure between teammates.
Until the team starts practicing in full pads, the school's locker rooms will be off limits. While Cass will hold on-field practices as a full group, Gates plans to have the Colonels split into two weightlifting sessions with his older players working out before practice and his freshmen doing so after practice.
Also included in the protocols released Wednesday is a note that local school systems will be largely responsible for creating guidelines pertaining to spectators and other game day operations.
"I knew, regardless of when we would play, there would be restrictions," Gates said. "I just hope they don't restrict the fans. ... A Friday night football game has a lot to do with the stands. It's the fans, it's the atmosphere, it's the fun that goes along with it. If we go out there on a Friday night, there's 20 people in the stands, and it's officials and administrators, it will just be quiet and a glorified scrimmage or practice.
"As far as school systems, Bartow has been incredible, so I don't see us having a problem. I'm worried about some of the counties we play that may try to restrict fans coming into their stands, restrict number of people we could bring over there, whether we can bring our band."
Along with apprehension about further cancellations or impending rules regarding attendance, including possible limits on individuals allowed to be on the sidelines during games, Gates also pointed out the impact the season's postponement will have on dual-sport athletes.
"I've got five or six very good basketball players on my team, and they won't get to basketball until late," he said. "We're a 5A school. When you get into those smaller schools where the football team is the basketball team and vice versa, they're in trouble, unless they bump basketball back a couple of weeks to help those athletes out."
Even still, Gates said his players were mostly pleased to hear the season was being delayed two weeks. That's because most of them, the seniors in particular, have been bracing for the season to be completely called off since the COVID-19 outbreak started in mid-March.
"I think we've done a great job as a staff and as an administration to be very transparent with them and the parents," Gates said of his athletes. "This all could be canceled. I've never been a sugarcoater. I'm going to shoot straight with the players. ...
"Anything above cancellation is a positive. This two-week back up, they're like 'OK, great. That's no big deal.' I kind of gave them the worst-case scenario, especially the seniors, of a full cancellation. Everything from that point on has been good news. We've continued to get good news. Even the setback of two weeks, that's still great news."
The delay will certainly help offensive coordinator Darrel Roach get the new spread offense installed. It will also allow for the defense to train more against a spread offense in hopes of countering similar attacks.
But the biggest positive Gates sees to the push back is the ability to gain some time to focus on special teams — an area that is hard to work on when the entire team hasn't been able to be together.
However, Gates is still hesitant to celebrate the extra prep work for one key reason.
"It does give us two more weeks," he said, "but then again, it's two more weeks to keep kids healthy."