Football games sidelined once again

By Katherine Smith, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 12:33 PM EDT

Friday night lights will be dimmed once again for many Tampa Bay area high schools.

Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk county public schools will not play regularly scheduled games on Friday.

Private school games are a case-by-case decision.

Many public schools in the area are still serving as shelters following Hurricane Irma.

Pinellas County public schools rescheduled Friday's games to Monday. Even though schools won't be open until Monday, they are allowing teams to practice Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to prepare for the contests.

For those schools unable to play, it will mark the second week in a row games have been canceled.

"Friday nights under the lights are precious," Plant head coach Robert Weiner said. "We only get 10 that are scheduled for us. Every one of those games is a culmination of so much heart and soul and work, as well as a unifying bond for the community.

"Of course, an event like Irma allows us fresh perspective of realizing all that is really important - people's lives, lives of family and taking care of one another."

The Spectrum Sports feature game of the week between Berkeley Prep and Lakeland Christian has been rescheduled. Spectrum will broadcast the live action Monday night at 7:00 on HD Channel 1147. The game will also be streamed online.

The loss of games has an impact on the new playoff point system implemented this season. Teams earn points throughout the season based on a variety of factors that could get them into the playoffs or keep them out.

The FHSAA's system is based on the number of points each team earns divided by the number of games they played. An eight-game minimum is required in the new system, but the FHSAA announced it could waive the eight-game requirement.

In a special football bulletin released on Tuesday, the FHSAA responded to several questions, including when teams can practice while school is not open and if playing fewer games can hurt a team's chances of getting into the postseason. You can access the FHSAA's statement here.

"Missing games is disappointing, but real heartbreak is people's live and property in peril," Weiner said. "That being said, we don't ever want to miss one minute of one game. Most importantly, football is good for the kids. And it lifts the families and the entire community."

USF Coach Charlie Strong offered up Raymond James Stadium for area high school players and their coaches. He invited them to the Bulls game against Illinois Friday night free of charge. Anyone interested in going must bring school identification and enter through Gate D. Strong also invited first responders and their families.