The future of high school sports in Kentucky has yet to be decided, but planning, preparing and practicing cannot wait. Student athletes were allowed to return to their sport with guidelines and restrictions, yet without the promise of a season.
Golf has been the first in the line of seven fall sports to have an answer. School teams were allowed to resume practice and hold tryouts July 15 with the season to commence this Friday.
Others are awaiting their fate, expecting the next decision to be made today (July 28) when the KHSAA Board of Control will reconvene to determine the next phase for high school athletics. Currently, contact-style practice will be resuming Aug. 3. That decision can be upheld with potential dates for game-play, or they also hold the power to shut down the season.
Having been restricted from spring training, the MCHS football team would be looking forward to gathering in July with their new coach for official practice. Steven Etheridge was named head coach less than a month before the suspension of high school sports. With only two weeks to begin to get to know each other, schools were closed and, ultimately, “dead period” rules were initiated, prohibiting contact between coaches and players.
The two were reunited in June and the building began, building relationships, building a team and building bodies.
The Marshals’ season opener is currently scheduled for Aug. 21, hosting Ballard Memorial. Marshall County enjoyed a 37-6 win over the Bombers to kick off last season.
Volleyball and soccer have both been preparing for a new season with practices limited to drills and no contact. The Lady Marshals will take the court under second-year coach Laura Kinder, while the Lady Marshals soccer team will return to Colburn Stadium with Michael Boone for his 13th season.
Currently, the Lady Marshals volleyball team will play their first game on the road against Fourth District rival Murray, Aug. 25. Soccer for the Lady Marshals is scheduled to start with a home field kickoff against Second District team Mayfield on Aug. 13.
The Marshals will boast a new head soccer coach this season, but he comes familiar to the program. BB Blevins graduated in 2003 before returning to the program as an assistant coach in 2010. Since then, Blevins has helped lead the boys soccer team to six Second District championships and four First Region championships.
They are scheduled to head to Paducah for their opening game Aug.10 to play Paducah Tilghman.
Last year’s Fourth District volleyball champions Christian Fellowship Lady Eagles have Ballard Memorial scheduled for their first game on Aug. 28. They graduated key players last season but have three seniors returning to the starting rotation. Emma Fletcher, Brecksyn Etheridge, and Cameron Slaydon were all members of the back-to-back-to-back district championship team. Sophomore Lillian Burnett had a break-out season last year that will be instrumental in the coming year.
With basketball season still several months away, coaches and players have been using this time of no-contact practices to run drills and improve skills for both new and returning players. Marshal basketball coach Terry Birdsong has divided the players into two groups. The first group reports to the gym for temperature checks and practice. They are dismissed 15 minutes before the second group allowing the coaching staff to thoroughly clean all surfaces.
Their roster will be missing key players from last season. Two of the top four scorers, Zion Harmon and Jay Nimmo, will be back on the court as this year’s seniors. Harmon, one of the four leading rebounders last season, will return, leaving areas for the next players to step up and earn positions. The roster will be packed with more senior talent, Kaden Driver, Carson Ives, Brady Miller, and Colby Schroader.
CFS Coach Trevor Jackson of the Lady Eagles said, “I have found the new guidelines to be helpful in keeping the players safe, but also it has allowed us to focus on skill development and conditioning.”
He is using this time to build a team to grow and last for the next three years, having no seniors or juniors on the roster, led by one of the strongest players in the district, a freshman, Gracie Howard.
The Eagles graduated five seniors last year leaving a lot of experience to replace. Coach Tyler Ryan stated, “We have focused on individual fundamental drills so far.”
Three of their five leading scorers will return, senior Andrew Allen, sophomore Andrew Dunning, and junior Luke Grigg. Allen’s defensive skills, along with Dunning’s natural ability and Grigg’s athleticism make them the foundation for the team, pulling their guards from their juniors.
Players and coaches continue to prepare, season or no season. There is no room for doubt. With the unprecedented cancelation of spring sports, athletes, families, and fans learned that anything can change. So they anxiously wait.