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File / The Outlook Benjamin Russell will use the extra week of practice this year as an installation period for new formations and alignments.

Given the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a lot of uncertainty swirling around what’s going to happen to the high school football season.

As of Monday afternoon, Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay-at-home order was still in effect and there had been no word of when schools could open back up for things like summer school and school-sanctioned activities. For sports teams, that means it’s still unknown when they’ll be allowed to start real practices.

Football teams are typically beginning spring practice about this time and are starting to think about summer plans, 7 on 7s and OTAs. However, while summer plans haven’t changed for most teams, spring football clearly isn’t going to happen in Alabama and the AHSAA has made amends.

It was announced Friday the AHSAA approved a record 11 proposals to be added to the new bylaws, which go into effect June 1, and one will allow fall sports, including football, volleyball, cross country and swimming, to either start practice a week early or have a spring evaluation period.

In this case, with teams not having that option this year, that essentially means an extra week of football practice. According to these new AHSAA bylaws, teams can start official practice the Monday before the first Monday in August — or July 27 this year.

“Well, for this year, it’s obviously really going to make a big difference,” Horseshoe Bend coach Jeremy Phillips said. “Not being able to have spring, it’s just going to be able to give us that little bit of extra time when we can get back going. In all, it’s probably going to be a good thing.”

Many coaches have already started making plans for what that week is going to look like. Benjamin Russell coach Kevin Smith said the Wildcats will be starting virtual workouts next week where players will log in and workout in “teams” but not in the same place.

Because the Wildcats, like all other teams, are making such huge adjustments to this new way of coaching and practicing, that extra week is going to be essential.

“From an install point, it’s going to be beneficial for us and it’ll be good to have an extra week,” Smith said. “That week we’ll use as a very specific install week for what we missed in the spring. We can start to put those alignments, assignments, formations and things like that into practical use for a week.”

Not all coaches have figured things out that specifically though, especially without knowing if and when it’ll actually happen. While it’s great in theory to have official practice begin July 27, it also can’t be guaranteed this year that date will stick.

“These are just so unprecedented times that you try to just think best-case scenario,” Reeltown coach Matt Johnson said. “Hopefully we’ll get this thing kicked back off and start up on our June 1 date like normal and that extra week will just be our first week of practice. But you just don’t know. You’ve got to prepare for changeups and curveballs to continue to be thrown our way. Right now there’s just so many questions.”

Assuming the extra week of practice can happen, Phillips said he’s going to essentially use it as a mini-spring training.

“We’re going to really go back to our fundamentals heavily,” Phillips said. “Really in the spring that’s what our staff does; we’ll go back and work on tackling, getting in the correct stance. We’ll go over our core defensive and offensive philosophy and getting the guys dialed back in. That’s what we’ll be using that week for.”

While there is still a lot of unknown and all these plans are tentative, the one thing coaches agree on more than anything is they’re pleased with how the AHSAA has handled the pandemic.

“If there’s nothing else, coach (Steve Savarese, executive director of the AHSAA) is going to have a plan,” Smith said. “I trust them down there and I can promise that they’re working on the different outcomes of what may or may not happen diligently.”

Phillips said, “I think they’re doing the best they can. The problem is there’s a lot of unknown about what’s going on. You don’t want to rush back into it too early and then have repercussions but you don’t want to wait too long and not have kids be able to compete. It’s a tough decision to make but I think they’re approaching it the right way and doing the best they can with the information they have.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.