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High school notebook: Realignment, masks and no jump balls

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — High school coaches and athletes breathed a collective sigh of relief when a NCHSAA news conference focused on adjustments to deal with the future, rather than on additional schedule alterations to cope with the present.

As of Saturday, the state is reporting 388,552 total cases and is seeing daily reports of new cases that are steadily increasing, with more than 6,000 reported Saturday, but the games move forward. The first basketball practices are still set for Monday, with games scheduled to begin on Jan. 4.

Among the changes officials have made is requiring players to wear masks during games.

How many people will be allowed to attend those basketball games — normally the second most popular spectator sport behind football — is a matter of speculation at this point, but it is likely to be a small percentage of gym capacity. That information probably will be released soon.

Masked volleyball continues in front of a limit of 25 fans, with a South Rowan at West Davidson showdown of unbeaten teams looming in the Central Carolina Conference on Tuesday.

Cross country also continues. The Rowan County Championships are scheduled for Wednesday on a new course at Dan Nicholas Park, with the South Rowan boys and Carson girls expected to be the teams to beat.

The previously modified schedules for boys soccer, football, girls and boys golf, boys tennis, girls soccer, softball, baseball, girls tennis, track and field and wrestling, in that order, are still in place.

•••

Realignment

In case you missed it, the NCHSAA announced a massive overhaul of the system for determining school classifications, bringing overall athletic success and the number of students receiving government assistance into the equation. Student population now counts for only 50 percent of the “realignment score.”

Another realignment adjustment has schools being predetermined based on the county they’re located in as either East or West. No longer will teams won’t be making wildly long playoff trips like Salisbury football did in the fall of 2019 when the Hornets were part of the East playoffs.

Rowan schools are designated as being in the West.

The NCHSAA has elected to have an equal number of teams in all classifications. That means there now will be just as many 1As and 4As as there are 2As and 3As. That hasn’t been the case.

Realignment projections two weeks ago placed Carson on the 3A/4A bubble, but leaning toward 4A. East Rowan and South Rowan were on the 2A/3A bubble.

That was cleared up Friday by official classifications released by the NCHSAA.

Carson, which has about 300 more students than South Rowan or East Rowan, will still be 3A for the 2021-22 through the 2024-25 school years.

South Rowan, which has been 2A for the past four years, will be returning to the 3A ranks for the 2021-22 school year and no doubt will be placed in the same league as East Rowan, West Rowan and Carson.

East Rowan and West Rowan remain 3A. Salisbury remains 2A. North Rowan stays  1A. Davie stays 4A, and A.L. Brown moves up to 4A.

The Central Carolina Conference will be broken up, as half of the enormous league’s 10 schools are moving from 2A to 3A.

The NCHSAA’s proposed new conferences are expected to be announced on Dec. 10.

•••

Football

Major changes were announced by the NCHSAA for football, beginning with the 2021-22 season.

Schools will be limited to 10 football regular-season football games. Seasons will start later, no earlier than two days prior to the last Friday in August.

Since 1995, most area schools have played 11-game football seasons, including an optional “endowment game” that counts in the record books.  Endowment games are revenue producers for the NCHSAA. A total of  25% of the revenue from that game goes to the NCHSAA.

Now, one of the 10 games will be an endowment game.

The NCHSAA also will no longer sub-divide the state football playoffs. For example, there won’t be 2A and 2AA state champions crowned, just one champion for all of 2A.

There have been subdivided playoffs and eight football state champions every year since 2002. So that’s a major change.

•••

Basketball

Masks have become standard in volleyball. Players, coaches, support staff  and officials will be required to wear masks for basketball, as well.

That will be challenging. Volleyball has shown that masks get sweaty and wet. During long rallies, breathing hasn’t been routine.

There will be a 60-second official timeout in every quarter to help players adapt to competing in masks.

Game balls will be sanitized pregame by officials, who will be employing electronic whistles or standard whistles with shields.

Social distancing must be maintained on team benches. That may mean benches for players on one side of the gym and spectators on the other.

There will no jump balls and no postgame handshakes.

It will be a lot to deal with, but the prevailing thought is that coaches and players will do whatever is mandated and whatever it takes in order to have a season.

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