Heidi Dutcher/WD Sports

Weatherford Head Football Coach Billy Mathis, right, has the Roos rolling through the first seven weeks of 2019.

Weatherford High School’s athletic director is “ecstatic” about Tuesday’s decision by the University Interscholastic League to delay rather than cancel the 2020-21 fall sports season for Class 6A and 5A schools. Fall sports include football, volleyball, tennis and track.

“I’m glad for everybody’s sake,” said Billy Mathis, who also serves as head football coach at Weatherford’s 6A school. “That’s exciting. We get to play. Volleyball is playing. Everybody’s going to get to play. For our kids and our community and for what sports brings not only to our school but to our state and our country, they made a great decision.”

Schedules for Class 4A and lower classifications were not altered.

COVID-19 concerns prompted the UIL to push back by a month the start of football season for Class 6A and 5A. Week 1 games originally set for Aug. 27-29 will be played Sept. 24-26 instead. The start of practices were moved from Aug. 3 to Sept. 7.

“They pushed it back and delayed it, but it’s equal for everybody,” Mathis said. “That’s all you ask as a coach, is that everybody is on the same playing field.”

The start of football playoffs moves from Nov. 12 to Dec. 3, which could push the 6A and 5A state championship games past Christmas and into January. No specific date has been determined yet.

Aledo High School head football Coach Tim Buchanan said he is “extremely happy” that UIL staff put together a workable plan.

“I can’t imagine how tough that was with a state as big and diverse — schools anywhere from 60 kids up to 6,000 — as the state of Texas,” Buchanan said. “I appreciate the hard work they put into getting that done. It’s a plan. Not everybody in the state of Texas is going to like it. As coaches, it is something we can work with and make work. The fact that most people are going to get to play a full 10-game regular season schedule is good.”

In December, Buchanan’s Bearcats, a 5A school, became the first UIL 11-member football squad to clinch a ninth state title. Buchanan would like to nab that 10th title this season, but the uncertainty about when the 5A state championship game will be played doesn’t worry the coach.

“We will worry about that when we get there — if we get there, I should say,” he said.

If? Does that word indicate a seed of doubt? 

The Bearcats have excelled in recent years, but that’s no guarantee the team can take the prize this season, Buchanan said.

“It’s a new year, and we have a bunch of new kids,” he said. “The things that make the Bearcats good is typically our offseason and what we do with our kids in March, April, May, June, July. Heck. We haven’t been able to do those things.”

Buchanan has a plan to address those shortcoming. His players will escape the August heat, but practices beginning in typically balmy early September almost guarantee plenty of sweat will be spilled leading up to Week 1.  

“We will work them as hard as we can between now and that first game, try to overcome it, try to be more efficient in our practice schedules, try to figure out what we do well and do it,” Buchanan said.

Class 6A and 5A volleyball programs start practice on Sept. 7 and begin match play on Sept. 14. Team tennis and cross country can begin competing in matches and meets on Sept. 7.

Class 4A schools and below will start as scheduled — for now. Football and volleyball practice for Class 4A and below schools are still slated to begin Aug. 3 with football season kicking off Aug. 27 and volleyball opening on Aug. 10. The playoffs and state championship scheduled for Class 4A and below sports remains as scheduled.

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