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Lake Central expected to suspend prep sports; Region football programs finalize schedules without Illinois games

Lake Central expected to suspend prep sports; Region football programs finalize schedules without Illinois games

Lake Central football

The Lake Central School Corp. is expected to suspended prep sports Monday night.

The IHSAA has remained confident in its plan to start fall sports on time amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Lake Central is not on board.

Due to rising COVID-19 cases in Lake County, Lake Central Superintendent Dr. Larry Veracco announced in a letter Friday that Lake Central School Corp. administrators have recommended that its students begin the first four weeks of the 2020-21 school year online. They have also suggested that all prep sports activities be suspended during that span and for the first day of school to be pushed back from Aug. 10 to Aug. 17.

These recommendations are expected to be approved in a Lake Central School Corp. school board meeting Monday night and will have major effects on athletics within the school district.

Girls golf season is set to begin Monday, and the Indians were scheduled to compete in the Jeff Booster Club Invitational on Tuesday and host their own invitational Friday.

The first day of non-contact football practice is also slated for Monday.

Lake Central athletic director Chris Enyeart said all of the school's teams will practice Monday, although he admitted that they're most likely in for a long layoff, especially football.

"If we go e-learning, the recommendation by central office was for extracurriculars to be suspended until we return to (in-person) school," Enyeart said. "At that point, and with having to get 10 practices in, our first (football) competition probably wouldn't occur until Sept. 25 (Week 6)."

The IHSAA states in its bylaws that "the 10-practice rule may be waived by the commissioner if certain preconditions exist." However, if an exception is not made, the Indians would lose five of their nine regular season games before the Lake Central School Corp. even reviewed the suspension.

An abbreviated schedule would also call into question their eligibility for the 48th annual IHSAA state football tournament set to begin Oct. 23.

Lake Central football coach Tony Bartolomeo, who is entering his fourth season at the helm, said his program has been working hard ever since the Indiana Department of Education's prep sports resumption plan began July 6. According to him, there have been roughly 90 players at every varsity workout (sophomores, juniors and seniors) and about 40 athletes at every freshman practice.

He expects the same turnout Monday. The only difference is that when they finish up, none of them know for certain when they'll see each other again.

"We've already had a limited summer, and we've made the best of the situation, but if we aren't allowed to practice for approximately a month — the first month of the season — it will set us back," Bartolomeo said. "But we will handle it the best we can, and we'll be ready to go the best we can when we're called upon to do so."

Lake Central is scheduled to face Morton on the road in Week 2, but Governors football coach Mac Mishler said he hasn't given the Indians' looming suspension much thought due to the uncertainty swirling around his own program.

Morton is one of at least 11 Region schools that has currently suspended team gatherings for one or more sports. The others are: Chesterton, Clark, EC Central, Gavit, Hammond, Highland, LaCrosse, Munster, Portage and Valparaiso.

There have also been at least seven Northwest Indiana schools that previously suspended prep sports activities but have since resumed workouts. They are: Boone Grove, Calumet, Kankakee Valley, Lake Station, Michigan City, River Forest and Wheeler.

South Central Community School Corp. Superintendent Dr. Theodore Stevens announced Friday that its schools will also start the upcoming school year online and remain that way "until further notice." Satellites athletic director John Haggard shared a letter via Twitter adding that elementary and middle school athletics within the school district have been suspended, but high school sports activities can proceed "under the guidance of the IHSAA and the Indiana IN-CLASS document."

Clark, Gavit, Hammond and Morton had their team workouts halted July 16. The School City of Hammond plans to review the stoppage at its next school board meeting Tuesday, but Mishler isn't assuming anything.

"Who knows what will happen at this point?" Mishler said. "With the way this whole situation has been, we just gotta play it by ear and continue to move forward and figure out the next scenario."

Mishler and Hammond football coach Rob Gardner accompanied a student-led group that gathered Thursday and went to the School City of Hammond administration building to voice their opinions about resuming team activities.

A few athletes from every high school in the school district, except for Clark, had a chance to speak with School City of Hammond Superintendent Scott Miller, according to Gardner. He and Mishler simply tagged along to make sure the encounter went over smoothly.

"It was for the kids. The kids wanted to do it," Gardner said. "They just wanted to be heard, and they felt like it was important to be heard."

While the Hammond programs await another decision, Gardner is still being proactive.

Since the Illinois High School Association announced Wednesday that it has moved prep football to the spring, Gardner opted not to reschedule the Wildcats' matchup with Illinois opponent Reavis in Week 2. Instead, he believes a bye week could be used as a possible quarantine period for his program in light of a positive COVID-19 test.

Bishop Noll football coach Wayne Racine shared the same outlook and will not try to replace the Warriors' Week 3 matchup, which was originally supposed to be against Illinois program Ridgewood.

"Maybe by then I might have come in contact with (COVID-19) or kids that may have come in contact with it," Racine said. "That bye week I can use to get our kids healthy."

Chesterton and Gavit were also slated to play Illinois teams St. Rita and TF South, respectively, in Week 2, but now they will face each other. Trojans football coach Mark Peterson was pleased to fill his program's schedule with another home game so that his players have the maximum amount of chances to compete.

"We looked at proximity and location, and Gavit was a good a fit," Peterson said. "We didn't want to necessarily have to travel a couple hours to get to a game. Being able to stay close to home and making it a short drive for them to come over and see us is certainly a benefit."

Gallery: Lake Central at Valparaiso football

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Lake County Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.

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