Uncertainty, frustration mount over fate of 2020 athletic season

Staff Report
The Plaquemine defense holds back Livonia in Week 1 action last year at Andrew Canova Green Devil Stadium. The fate of the 2020 season remains uncertain during the coronavirus.

A ruling by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association that delays the start of high school football until at least Oct. 8-9 fuels uncertainty on whether the season will come to fruition during the coronavirus pandemic.

LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine has said the association remains committed to a season, but said it cannot come until Phase 4, which has not yet been defined.

The statement on reopening includes a change that came just a few days after the original announcement on the late start.

The latest move calls for schools to scrap scrimmages and jamborees.

The loss of the jamboree itself has brought a damper on the season, said Plaquemine head coach Paul Distefano, who also serves as athletic director for the parish public schools.

“We make more money on the jamboree when we play Brusly than we do off the first round of playoffs, largely because the crowd is better,” he said. “But it is what it is, and every day is a challenge in the minds of the kids.”

Players have taken to the practices and workouts with hope that the season will somehow come to fruition, even if it’s an abbreviated schedule.

Behind the work ethic of players, however, Distefano senses growing frustration.

“The kids are focused, but and I can tell this whole situation is taking toll on them mentally,” he said. “I feel horrible for the seniors at all the schools and it’s the same feeling a lot baseball players felt.

“We can’t really call any of this adversity,” Distefano said. “Every kid in every sport is going through the same thing in every part of our country.”

An announcement last month that the Southwestern Athletic Conference would scrap the 2020 season and Big 10’s decision to cancel all games only adds fuel to the fire.

Distefano fears those decisions could soon trickle down to high school sports.

“Athletes are trying to make the most of every day, so I can’t fault the kids for anything,” he said. “I just want them to come out and have fun.

“Anything would better than nothing, but some of those guidelines are quite challenging for football players on Friday night,” Distefano said. “To tell a kid he can’t take the mouthpiece out of his mouth on the field is unbelievable.”

The regulations and uncertainty have also made Distefano reflect on his days as an athlete at Plaquemine High, where he graduated in 1985.

“I really feel bad for all of these kids,” he said. “It makes me realize just how good we all had it in high school.”