GAME ON

What you need to know as UIL announces Texas high school football schedules

Photo via: Vype.

University Interscholastic League (UIL) recently announced schedules for the 2020 fall football season in Texas.

"With the understanding that not all schools will be able to start at the same time, this plan allows for schools to make playing decisions at the local level, and UIL will work directly with schools that have scheduling issues not addressed in this plan to allow them flexibility to complete as many contests as possible," according to a UIL press release.

Class 5A and 6A programs will notice the most changes. Practices for 5A and 6A schools will begin September 7, and games will kick off September 14. There won't be any changes for Class 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A. Practices will start August 3, and games a week later.

"This plan provides a delay for schools in highly populated metro areas, primarily Class 5A-6A, given the challenges with COVID-19 those communities are facing," according to the UIL statement.

UIL will impose a strict coronavirus screening policy once athletic activities resume. Players, coaches, and staff must undergo a self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms before participating in a sport or entering any UIL venue.

Kevin Hall, head coach of the Manvel High School 5A football team, knows that towns across Texas are excited for their local football team to start playing games.

"I can understand why the UIL did what they did. I am just very, very thankful that, as of right now, we are going to play football at all. Let's face it, when you go to towns all over the state of Texas, sports are everyone's common interest." Hall said.

Hall said he is enforcing UIL mandated COVID-19 precautions and will continue to put his players' safety first.

"Our priority is to make sure we are doing our best to stay safe with social distancing and wearing masks. No situation is perfect and we understand that. It is our responsibility as a coaching staff to do what we can do to help eliminate chances of kids getting sick." Hall said.

Hall added that he is aware that a surge in coronavirus among players could put the season at a sudden halt.

"I know things will possibly change through the season, but like I have told our kids through our summer program, I refused to let this virus define our season. It is not going to happen. We are stronger than that, and we are going to take what is thrown at us and come out better on the other end," Hall said.

Andres Gomez, athletic director and head football coach at 6A Northbrook High School commented on what the schedule change will mean for Northbrook's football program.

"The UIL announcement to push the start of the season back a month gives us something to look forward to. While we know that it is far from concrete because of the fluidity of our circumstances, we can at least see some light at the end of the tunnel. This only strengthens our desire to get out and compete," Gomez said.

Tim Teykl, athletic director and head football coach at 6A Alvin High School, said people should not be view UIL's announcement as a delay, but celebrate football's return.

"People are looking right past the fact that the UIL just waved the green flag. The fact that they opened it up and said we are going to slowly return to normalcy by giving back sports and giving us the ability to work with the kids. Big kudos to the UIL," Teykl said.

Teykl credited UIL for recognizing that large 5A and 6A schools need more time to prepare for their season than smaller schools.

"A lot of people are asking why UIL's 1A thru 4A schools will begin their seasons earlier than 5A and 6A. It is really quite easy when people understand it is a numbers game. Eighty-one percent of UIL participation in high school football in Texas comes from 5A and 6A schools. You have to give them consideration on how to manage a population that big," Teykl said.

In the UIL press release, executive director Dr. Charles Breithaupt commented about unpredictable circumstances relating to coronavirus but remained confident in the League's return plan.

"While understanding situations change and there will likely be interruptions that will require flexibility and patience, we are hopeful this plan allows students to participate in the education-based activities they love in a way that prioritizes safety and mitigates risk of COVID-19 spread," said Dr. Breithaupt in UIL's press release.

UIL announced that school systems may conduct corona screenings of their own, via online the internet. Northbrook is part of Spring Branch ISD and the district has issued a Health and Safety Protocol Acknowledgement that families of players must sign.

"Parents must ensure they do not send a student to participate in UIL activities if the student has COVID-19 symptoms or is lab-confirmed with COVID-19 until the conditions for re-entry are met," according to UIL guidelines.

To stay updated on UIL's COVID-19 Risk Mitigation guidelines, click on https://www.uiltexas.org/policy/covid-19/2020-2021-uil-covid-19-risk-mitigation-guidelines

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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