NOW THAT most NHIAA schools have rendered a decision regarding whether to offer fall sports — and what sports to offer — the state’s athletic directors have shifted their focus to the next piece of the puzzle: scheduling.
“That’s what I’m doing right now,” said Hillsboro-Deering Athletic Director Jay Wood. “I’m looking at 48 emails.”
It appears high schools will build regular-season schedules in the various sports based on geography. A school’s ability to play road games will be limited to opponents within a certain number of miles, or, in some cases, a time limit (no opponent more than 40 minutes away, etc.). This means you will likely see teams scheduling games against opponents from outside their division. Alvirne may play Campbell, Dover may face St. Thomas and you could see Trinity and West lining up against Central and Memorial.
“All sports here, and in most schools, are regional,” said Wood, who is also the Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton football coach and a member of the NHIAA football committee. “It’s whoever is near you, and the way their scheduling is you play that one school (in all sports) for that week.”
The strength of a team’s regular-season schedule isn’t all that significant this year since most sports plan to have an open postseason tournament, and it’s unlikely that a team’s record will determine its seeding for the playoffs.
Creating a football schedule has some extra challenges, in part because fewer schools play football than other sports. Thus the pool of potential opponents is smaller.
Let’s use the Keene football team as an example. Keene plays in Division I West, a five-team conference that includes Merrimack, Bishop Guertin, Nashua North and Nashua South. Keene is not allowing its athletic teams to play in Nashua, so that eliminates three potential games from the Blackbirds’ schedule. There aren’t that many Division I schools located close to Keene, so finding games hasn’t been easy.
The Sept. 25 start date for football games has cut three weeks off the season as well. That means there are nine weeks between a team’s first game and the weekend before Thanksgiving, when the Division I, Division II and Division III championship games are usually played (Division IV typically plays its championship game a week earlier). Since football teams play only once per week, fitting a regular season plus playoffs into that nine-week window is more difficult in football than it would be in other sports.
Wood said some issues will be hashed out at the next NHIAA football committee on Sept. 8 (also the first day NHIAA football teams are allowed to practice), but It looks like football teams will play five or six regular-season games and then have the option to participate in the open tournament. A five-game regular-season would leave four weeks for the playoffs, which is what would be needed for a 16-team playoff field. Another obstacle is the fact that Division I (20) and Division II (18) each have more than 16 teams. Divisions III and IV each have 10. These numbers include the schools that aren’t offering football this season.
Again, what shape the playoffs will take and how teams will be seeded are issues that still must be tackled.
“With regard to the postseason, that’s going to be talked about at the next (NHIAA football committee) meeting as well,” Wood said. “At this point you want to be as smart as you can, and we’re all thankful that the majority of kids have an opportunity to perform in athletics at their school.”
Some NHIAA schools have proposed, or at least discussed, the possibility of requiring their athletes to learn remotely until their athletic season ends even if the rest of the school’s student population returns to the classroom. Anyone else having a hard time understanding the thinking here?
Presumably, any student participating in NHIAA athletics this fall will be required to follow strict safety protocols to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. With these protocols in place, shouldn’t athletes be among the least-likely students to spread the virus?
Yes, athletes will travel to other schools (in limited numbers) on game days, but do we really think the rest of a school’s student population is going straight home after school? The doors would be open to a student who spends his or her afternoons at Hampton Beach, for example, but not open to an athlete participating in a sport that has many, many safety measures in place? And it’s not as if teachers and administrators in a particular school are all from the same community. Some are undoubtedly traveling to their school from out of the area, or, in some cases, from another state.
Anything to play, of course, so no one is complaining, but the logic regarding this seems askew.
Bedford’s Nick Leahy is Bowdoin College’s nominee for the William Campbell Trophy, which is considered college football’s academic equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Leahy, who played at Bedford High School, is a defensive back at Bowdoin, where he has a double major of math and economics and a 3.9 GPA.
The criteria for the Campbell Trophy includes the following:
— A senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility
— A grade point average of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale
— Outstanding football ability as a first-team player
— Demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship
Former Pinkerton Academy lineman Hayden Sturdevant will be wearing No. 64 for Southern Miss. when the Golden Eagles play South Alabama in a nationally televised (CBS Sports Network) FBS game Thursday night at 8.
Sturdevant, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound offensive lineman, is a redshirt junior. He attended Pinkerton through his junior year before he moved on to the Salisbury School.
Southern Miss. is a 15-point favorite on the DraftKings app.
ICYMI: Durham’s Dave Lassonde was named the national goaltending coach for USA Hockey last week. Lassonde, who was a goaltender at Providence College, was the associate head coach at Dartmouth last season. He has also coached at UNH, Denver and Wisconsin.
RIP Rus Wilson. Portsmouth High School was fortunate to have you as its athletic director.