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THE FRONT ROW with MARK NELKE: Local high schools keeping ‘Fred’ busy

| August 16, 2020 1:06 AM

If they wanted to, the folks who print up those posters that display the local team’s high school sports schedules — the ones that hang in area businesses — could make a killing this year.

“Fred,” the local athletic director said to the printer, about one week after the original fall sports schedules were printed and distributed. “Can you reprint those posters? We’ve had several changes in our fall schedules.”

About one week later ...

“Fred,” the AD said. “We’ve got to do another reprint ... ”

One week later ...

“Fred ... ”

THE LATEST change came this week, when 4A Moscow High canceled its fall sports seasons due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. As an alternative, school officials announced an “intramural” model for the fall where Moscow athletes would compete only against other Moscow athletes.

Honestly, who can blame Moscow for opting out this fall — who can blame anybody for opting out?

For every state that still plans to play a high school fall sports season in the fall, there’s another one that has pushed the “fall” season to the spring.

Many of the college conferences have punted their fall seasons to the spring, the few exceptions being the NFL’s main feeder league, the SEC, and a couple conferences trying to keep up — the ACC and Big 12.

Folks in Moscow have started an online petition to save their fall sports.

Those on both sides of the play now/play later debate are equally convinced they are right.

One side — the percentage of deaths from COVID-19, compared to the cases, is too low to worry about.

Other side — any COVID-19 death that could have been prevented by the proper precautions is one too many.

Masks are either the answer to slowing the pandemic, or are totally unneccessary, depending on which side of the fence you’re on.

The worst-case scenario in Idaho would be if fall sports were halted after just a few weeks, and those kids weren’t allowed a do-over in the spring.

At that point, Washington’s decision to move its fall sports to the spring — essentially playing all of its 2020-21 calendar year sports in a six-month window in 2021 — would look like an ingenious idea.

IN ANY event, the news out of Moscow sent other ADs in North Idaho scrambling to fill their schedules — again.

In football, when it worked out, 5A Inland Empire League schools scheduled a second game vs. their league foes — one that wouldn’t count in the league standings. Some 5A schools also added games vs. 4A IEL schools.

Now, the three-team 4A IEL in football could be a one-game season — Sandpoint at Lakeland on Oct. 23. Lakeland was slated to play at Moscow on Oct. 9, Sandpoint was to host the Bears on Oct. 16.

Maybe, with the extra open dates in October, Sandpoint and Lakeland can play a best-of-3, just for the heck of it.

That will be something for the league ADs to decide.

Lakeland already added a second meeting with 3A Timberlake, its Lakeland School District rival, on Sept. 4 after Columbia of Nampa had to pull out of its scheduled trip to Rathdrum. Canyon County, which includes Nampa, is still in the red category of community spread of COVID-19, the highest level of community spread in Idaho’s back-to-school guidelines (most other counties outside the Boise area are in the yellow, or more moderate, category), so the earliest those schools could play is Sept. 8 — and only if Canyon County is out of the red.

Ada County, which includes the Boise and Meridian schools, is also in the red.

Many of the schools in the Boise area didn’t start practice last Monday, like the rest of the state did, because of COVID concerns. The start of some schools’ fall seasons could be delayed a week or two — or more.

According to The Idaho Statesman newspaper in Boise, some schools say they will try to play even if their county is still in the red, but other schools say they won’t until their county moves out of the red.

What happens if the Boise-area schools aren’t able to play this fall, because of community spread? You don’t think there’ll be a big push from them to move fall sports to the spring?

Meanwhile, back up North, Lakeland’s football team was already scheduled to travel to Timberlake on Oct. 2.

Lakeland also added a game with the Coeur d’Alene junior varsity on Sept. 11.

St. Maries is down to a four-game football season — so far — after its school board pushed back the start of fall sports practices to Sept. 10, meaning the earliest the Lumberjacks can play is Sept. 22. That wiped out St. Maries’ first four games of the season, including a Sept. 18 visit to Lakeland.

St. Maries has a bye the week Oct. 16 in the middle of its league schedule, which consists of a trip to Grangeville on Oct. 9 and a visit from Orofino on Oct. 23.

Lakeland also has a bye the week of Oct. 16.

Hey, just trying to help ...

LEWISTON, IN the 5A IEL, lost two football games with Moscow’s decision to opt out. The Bengals were scheduled to play the Bears on Sept. 18 at home and two weeks later in Moscow.

Coeur d’Alene, which has just seven games scheduled, has a bye Sept. 18, and is only scheduled to play Lewiston once this season, in its league meeting.

Lewiston is already scheduled to play league foes Lake City and Post Falls twice.

Lake City is slated to play Lewiston, Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene twice, as well as one game vs. Lakeland and a home-and-home with Sandpoint.

Post Falls is also scheduled to play the other three 5A IEL teams twice. The Trojans also have Sandpoint, Lakeland and Rigby on the schedule.

In the other fall sports, the seven IEL schools were already scheduled to play each other twice. Since there are very few nonleague options available this year, there’s been some talk about possibly playing a team three times, just to have more games in the regular season.

But that will be something for the ADs — armed with pencils with full erasers — to decide at their next meeting.

“Say, Fred ... ”

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.