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RALEIGH — The North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced news guidelines about the sports calendar on Sept. 8, among them specific playoff dates, as well as a reduction in the number of teams able to compete for a state title and an increase in the number of people now allowed at skills training sessions.

With Governor Roy Cooper’s announcement of the state moving into Phase 2.5 of reopening protocols, the NCHSAA has announced an increase from the initial amount of 10 people to 25 people now allowed to be present at indoor training sessions. Individuals allowed for outdoor practices have now increased from 25 to 50 individuals.

Football is among the sports where only 32 teams will compete in the state playoffs, a total which is half the usual number of schools bracketed to battle for state championships in the sport’s classifications. There will be two 16-team brackets in each classification. As well, rather than using MaxPreps computerized rankings and winning percentage for playoff seeding purposes, schools will be matched up based on their placing in their respective conferences.

The association also announced scheduled dates for state playoff competition in football to begin, with round one slated for Friday, April 16, with championship games played in early May.

The sports of tennis and wrestling will not have dual team playoffs, meaning that the defending state champion Avery wrestling team will not defend its dual-team title in 2020-21 but reign as state dual team 1A champions for an additional year. There will only be individual regional and state tournaments for both sports, and the NCHSAA also announced that consolation rounds won’t be included in wrestling tournaments, often referred to as “wrestle-backs.” Additionally, there will also be no regular season tournaments in wrestling.

For postseason sports play, conferences with six teams or less, such as the Western Highlands 1A/2A Conference, will receive only one automatic playoff bid. As well, split conference bids will be based on the size of its half of the split, and extra playoff spots will be awarded as at-large bids based on conference winning percentage. For a team to be eligible for state playoffs in their respective sport, all schools must fully compete in conference play as determined by each conference.

A tough decision that many athletes will have to make is being able to participate in multiple sports, as football and men’s soccer seasons overlap, as well as the beginning of football and the end of basketball seasons.

Preseason scrimmages are permitted, but are limited to no more than two teams. A maximum of one scrimmage limited to two hours will be allowed for each sport.

The NCHSAA noted that the guidance uses a phased approach and is intended “to help school administrators, coaches, parents, students and communities navigate a gradual reopening of high school athletic activities.”

“We are looking forward to fully resuming sports in November,” NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said. “As always, we will continue to monitor health and safety guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Additional strategies noted by the Association in its update include frequent, effective hand hygiene, social distancing of at least six feet, disinfecting of high touch areas and avoiding touching of the face.

“Administrators and coaches must emphasize the need for all coaches and participants who have signs or symptoms of illness to stay home to decrease risk of viral transmission, as they may transmit the virus to vulnerable individuals,” the NCHSAA noted.

Guidance was also provided in reference to season schedules. Every sport except football is allowed 14 regular season competitions. The NCHSAA increased the number of track and field, swimming and cross country competitions from 10 to 14 with its latest guidelines. Football is still allowed only seven regular season games.

Regular season regulations were also released by the NCHSAA for individual sports such as cross country, track and field, golf, tennis, wrestling and swimming.

Cross country and track will have a maximum of four schools allowed per meet, adding that if there are four-team cross country meets, each team is limited to only seven runners. In instances of three-squad meets, each team may have nine runners, while in meets involving only two teams, each team may have 14 runners. Seven runners score with a cross country team, which would entail only “starting” runners would traveling to four-team meets.

As the 2020-21 academic calendar currently stands, the school sports year is set to begin with cross country and volleyball in early November.

To view the modified skills development document and the amended NCHSAA playoff calendar, click to www.nchsaa.org/sites/default/files/2020-21Sports%20Skill%20DevelopmentCovid%20Guidelines-Sept8.pdf. To view the amended 2020-2021 Sports Calendar, click to www.nchsaa.org/sites/default/files/attachments/Amended-2020-2021_Calendar_Sept8_2020.pdf.

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