Fans of Baldwin High School football will now have to wait until October to watch their team take the field.
The school announced Tuesday afternoon that its football, softball and volleyball teams will play region/area-only schedules this fall due to trends with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Baldwin cross country team’s schedule remains intact.
For the football team, that removes its first four games from the 2020 slate, leaving only six versus the Braves’ region foes. The games against Washington County, Burke County, Ware County and Southwest of Macon will not be played. Instead of kicking off the season next Friday, Sept. 4, the Braves will now wait until Oct. 9 when they are set to open Region 4-4A play against Westside of Macon.
BHS Athletic Director Dexter Ricks told The Union-Recorder Tuesday afternoon that the region-only solution is better than a much more drastic option that was being considered.
“We’ve been discussing it for a while,” Ricks said. “There was even some discussion at one time about possibly canceling fall sports, but as we were patient and seeing what everyone else was doing, we got to a happy medium and said let’s just do a region schedule… We still want to be able to offer sports, but we have to maintain the safety of our student-athletes, coaches and fans in the community first. This allows sports to continue, and lets us keep an eye on those numbers.”
Baldwin head football coach Jesse Hicks has been one of the more outspoken voices this summer when it comes to wanting the season pushed back. He’s happy with the decision his school made in concert with the school district.
“It does kind of put my mind a little bit more at ease knowing we’re not going to be playing right now,” Hicks said in a Tuesday phone interview. “It gives us an opportunity to reboot and see how things go with the virus. It also gives us a couple extra weeks to prepare for our season.”
Hicks shared a revised 2020 football schedule with the newspaper, and there are changes other than just deleting the first four games. What is now the season opener against Westside on Oct. 9 has also been designated as Senior Night, with good reason.
“That’s a little odd, but at the end of the day you may have to cancel,” said Hicks. “We want to make sure we do celebrate our seniors the first opportunity we get because this is their last hurrah.”
Baldwin High School homecoming has also been changed to Nov. 6 when the Braves host Spalding High School.
Playing region-only schedules ensures that Baldwin’s football, softball and volleyball teams will be eligible for the postseason as records against region opponents are used to determine playoff seeding.
“Milledgeville is different from other cities,” said Ricks. “We’ve been a hotspot and had high numbers for a while, so we wanted to make sure that we were looking out for the best interests of not only our student-athletes and coaches, but the community too. Alabama started playing football last week. This way we get to see some pros and cons as well as what may work for other schools. It gives us a little flexibility so we can be as safe as possible when we do return to playing, especially in football.”
One unknown in this fall sports equation is the status of Bibb County athletics. The nearby school system suspended athletic competitions for its six schools starting Aug. 13. They have been allowed to continue practicing, but not take the field for games. Three of Baldwin’s six region opponents in football and softball (Westside, Rutland and Howard) are part of Bibb County Schools. Those programs remaining off the field/court would severely limit Baldwin’s plans of a region-only schedule.
BHS cross country will continue its season as planned, the school announced. The sport allows for more social distancing than the others, and there is no ball hit back and forth between competing teams. Cross country is also different in that its regular season meets have no bearing on the postseason. The regular season is basically just practice for region, which is where athletes can qualify for state.
Baldwin added in its press release announcing the region-only move for football, softball and volleyball that sports at Oak Hill Middle School would not be impacted, and schedules for all sports are subject to change again as school officials continue to monitor the local spread of COVID-19.