Winter Haven Bartow Football 3

Sept. 18 has emerged as a significant date when the Florida High School Athletic Association released its plan for the fall sports season.

That day is the last day that member schools can opt out of the state series for football, girls volleyball, cross country, golf, swimming and diving, and bowling.

Teams can opt out and still compete outside of the fall sports calendar. On the other hand, schools will still be permitted to schedule additional games upon elimination from the state series (up through the final date of the state championship in a particular sport) or if they chose independent status this fall.

In lieu of those decisions, here are some important dates with regard to the current fall sports calendar. Be reminded that changes are possible based on conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Football playoff classifications will be determined after Sept. 18, while opening-round and/or play-in games are scheduled for Nov. 13. There will be a 64-team postseason bracket in the top four classes (8A through 5A) and a 32-team bracket in the lower four (4A through 1A Rural).

Blind draws for seedings purposes will be done Oct. 26.

The last regular-season date for girls volleyball is Oct. 10 and district (Oct. 12-16) and regional (Oct. 21-31) tournaments follow later that month. State semifinals are set for Nov. 7, while Florida Southwestern State’s Suncoast Credit Union Arena hosts the state championships Nov. 13-14.

The cross country regular season – which includes the 12th annual Jim Ryun Invitational on Saturday (Sept. 12) at Holloway Park in Lakeland – officially ends Oct. 24 with district (Oct. 26-31) and regional (Nov. 2-7) meets to follow. The state finals are scheduled for Nov. 13-14 at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee.

Oct. 10 marks the final day of the golf regular season with district (Oct. 12-14) and regional (Oct. 19-21) on tap shortly thereafter. The state championships return to Howey-in-the-Hills (Mission Inn Resort & Club) from Oct. 27 through Nov. 4.

The last allowable regular-season date for swimming and diving is Oct. 17. There are staggered dates for district and regional meets – with the 3A and 4A classes preceding the 1A and 2A classes by one week – and that will also be the case at the state finals in Stuart where Class 3A (Nov. 6) and Class 4A (Nov. 7) go before Class 1A (Nov. 13) and Class 2A (Nov. 14).

Bowling wraps up the regular season on Oct. 24 and district tournaments will be held between Oct. 26 and Oct. 29. The state championships are set for Nov. 4-5 at a location still to be determined.

PCPS announces attendance guidelines

With its fall sports season set to begin this week, Polk County Public Schools announced guidelines involving attendance at games. However, spectators will not be allowed at practices.

Attendance at games will be limited to allow for social distancing between individuals who are not from the same household, and spectators must wear a mask or face covering and are required to exit a venue after the event’s conclusion. Furthermore, fans will not be allowed on the field and congregating before or after games is prohibited.

Spectators are also being asked to conduct a self-assessment for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms before attending a contest. Signs will also be posted at an entrance gate reminding fans of those procedures.

General public tickets will be available at the gate on a first-come, first-served basis. Family members of student-athletes will have the opportunity to purchase up to four tickets per rostered player/cheerleader/performing marching band member and those tickets will be available pre-sale or at the gate.

Concession stands will sell a limited number of items at games and restrooms will be open.