Maryland High School Athletics postpone fall, winter competitions

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – When Maryland students begin classes at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year later this month, high school athletics will remain on the sidelines.

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) announced in a statement on Monday that the 2020 high school fall and winter competition will be postponed during the first semester.

The decision came after several districts elected to call off their athletic programs as they begin the school year learning virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fall semester sports that are immediately impacted are football, volleyball, cross country, soccer and field hockey. According to the projected start date schedule, athletes would have started tryouts on August 12 with their first play dates scheduled for Sept. 4. Winter sports, like basketball, would have begun their workouts on Nov. 14.

The Maryland State Board of Education voted in June, allowing each jurisdiction to control how to navigate its athletic competitions. Prince George’s County announced in mid-July its decision to put athletics “on hold” during the distance learning process, whereas Montgomery County canceled of all fall and winter sports.

The wavier granted by the state’s education board does allow counties to decide to provide “student engagement” during the first semester. Anne Arundel County Superintendent George Arlotto said he asked Coordinator of Athletics Clayton Culp to outline a plan that allows all sports practices during the fall that “meet local and state health and safety guidelines.”

MPSSAA recently announced the postponement of high school athletics for fall and winter seasons. Courtesy photo.

“There is no question that athletics are an extremely important part of the high school student experience,” Arlotto said in a statement. “The MPSSAA has created an opportunity here of which I believe we should take full advantage. I am confident that Mr. Culp and his team will do everything they can to come up with the best possible plan to move forward.”

MPSSAA said it would work with the Public School Superintendent Association of Maryland and the state’s health department on creating a hybrid “two-semester plan” that will have all public high school sports in the state compete during the second semester in 2021. The association said it plans to release more details before the start of the 2020-2021 academic year.

“The health and safety of student participants, coaches and officials is a primary concern for the return of interscholastic athletics and activities,” the association said.

Maryland joins Washington, D.C. and Virginia, who announced the postponement of their fall sports programs until 2021. Last week, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) said it would reschedule its upcoming fall sports season to January 2021.

The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) announced in a joint statement in July that they will delay their fall preseason until Sept. 1 and league play commencing on Sept. 21.

WCAC reschedules all fall high school sports to January

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) is rescheduling its upcoming fall sports season to January 2021, becoming the latest interscholastic athletics association to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioner Stephen Colantuoni said he met with athletic directors of member schools multiple times since March, coming up with different plans to resume athletics once schools reopen. Colantuoni said the goal was to come back with their full slate of fall sports, including football, soccer, cross-country field hockey, volleyball and tennis.

However, as time wore on and the continued spread of COVID-19 across the metropolitan region, the decision was made to hold off playing during the fall. The plan discussed during a meeting with the heads of schools last week, according to Colantuoni. 

“We held off for as long as we could,” Colantuoni said. “The biggest problem we have is we play in two different states and the District of Columbia, and we have seven jurisdictions, and every one of them is different.”

The WCAC is comprised of 13 private schools and must adhere to local guidelines regarding outside and indoor gatherings during the pandemic. As private institutions, they are not obligated to adhere to any public school system guidelines and can act independently in terms of having athletic competitions on school property.

The league will be monitoring restrictions placed on its schools across their jurisdictions and the feasibility of moving all fall athletics to early 2021. It will, however, consider playing a conference-only schedule, Colantuoni said.

“We made a commitment to our kids,” Colantuoni said. “That we are going to try as best we can to get a season in some time down the road. That’s the whole thing; our athletics are second to none.”

Colantuoni also stated the conference is focus on assuring all its student-athletes an opportunity to play this upcoming school year.

“Our spring sports, they got beat last (season), and they didn’t get to play at all,” Colantuoni said. “So that was really difficult for them, so I don’t want to do that two (seasons) in a row.”

The conference’s decision comes after multiple school districts and associations elect to reschedule or cancel their athletic programs.

Both District of Columbia State Athletic Association and the Virginia High School League made plans to move their fall sports to February 2021. However, Montgomery County Public School canceled their fall and winter seasons and Prince George’s County Public Schools’ athletics are postponed during virtual learning.

Moving the season to the spring can become problematic because college football prospects can enroll early and leave before the start of the season. Other possible concerns include the physical health of senior athletes who plan to enroll during the summer months will be entering workouts weeks after concluding a spring football season.

High school sports round-up: MCPS cancels fall, winter season while PGCPS puts athletics on hold

By Jose Umana and Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributors

BETHESDA — Two of the state’s largest school districts have announced the cancellation of fall sports for the 2020 season.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Jack Smith said in a statement Tuesday that the school system will provide virtual-only learning for the first semester. The model also includes the cancellation of all fall and winter sports.

Ever since MCPS leaders have been exploring different methods to reopen schools in the fall, they have received additional guidance from Travis Gayles from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.

According to Smith, Gayles recommended that in-person instruction should not take place in school buildings. Instead, MCPS’ original plan of going virtual-only learning for at least until the end of the first semester on Jan. 29, 2021, or when state and local health officials approve their return would be the safer option.  

“This decision includes the cancellation of all fall and winter sports,” Smith said.

Smith said MCPS would reassess after the first quarter (Nov. 9) to determine if it can implement a phased blended model in the second semester, which begins Feb. 1, 2021. 

“We will continue to engage with our community as we continue to navigate this incredibly complex situation,” Smith said.

The sports that are affected include football, basketball, indoor track, wrestling, volleyball, cross country, soccer, field hockey and swimming. 

In a letter to the county’s sports community, Athletic Director Jeffrey Sullivan said that the department is “deeply saddened” by the cancelation, but health and safety is the No. 1 priority. 

“When the time comes for us to return to action, we will do what we do best–provide meaningful opportunities for our student-athletes to excel and bring our communities together,” Sullivan said. 

PGCPS puts athletics on hold during distant learning phase

Montgomery County’s decision comes as Prince George’s County Schools (PGCPS) announced its decision to put athletics on hold for the fall semester last Wednesday.

During her press conference about the school system’s reopening plans, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Monica Goldson said she had to address athletics after receiving “daily” questions on its status. When school starts on Aug. 31, PGCPS will open virtually with distance learning until the end of the second quarter on Jan. 29, 2021.

With the focus on ensuring the proper education and safety to students during the pandemic, Goldson said PGCPS could not operate athletics when the school year begins.

“At this time, we will not be able to implement interscholastic activities that will allow our students to remain safe,” Goldson said.

Instead, all student-athletes will be able to work together with their school’s athletic directors in virtual seminars. Other accommodations will be made for student-athletes who were preparing for recruiting and applying for college, according to a Twitter town hall PGCPS conducted.

Unlike MCPS, Goldson did not say when the hold on sports would end. In a statement, the Office of Interscholastic Athletics said as PGCPS enters the next phase of virtual learning, athletics will restart at “the lowest risk of participation” for students and staff, including at-home conditioning, a virtual re-introduction of athletics and additional online resources. 

“We will continue to keep you updated around the state as decisions are made surrounding athletic sports, but we will be offering opportunities for students in their clubs and organizations to continue virtually,” Goldson said. 

Both counties’ decisions come after Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) announced the state’s education system voted in favor of allowing each jurisdiction to control how to navigate its athletic programs. 

Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Anne Arundel counties will all go virtual learning in the fall. However, only Baltimore County has joined Montgomery and Prince George’s in postponing their fall and winter athletic season. 

MPSSAA released its Roadmap for Return of Interscholastic Athletics, which provides detailed guidelines for how counties should handle any cancelation of activities, modified and gradual resumption of sports and full resumption and administration of activities. 

The state’s athletic association will update and modify the fall practice schedule on July 21 and 28 and Aug. 4. Depending on the number of schools participating in a regular season, MPSSAA will determine the status of the fall state championships in October. 

DC-area high school associations delay start of fall sports season

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Three high school athletics associations in the D.C.-metropolitan region announced their decisions to delay the start of the fall sports season as schools prepare to administer classes during the coronavirus pandemic.

DCSAA plans to move football, fall sports to 2021

On late Thursday, the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) said it would start its athletic season with winter sports in December, moving fall sports to 2021. Cross-country, football, soccer and volleyball will instead begin to play in February 2021 and end their season on April 16, according to a news release.

“Given the current environment, it just is not feasible to begin practice Aug. 1 and competition later that month,” DCSAA Executive Director Clark Ray said. “The safety of student-athletes and coaches remains our top priority.”

Ray said all of 49 public, charter and independent (private and parochial) member high schools were consulted before the decision was announced.

Going forward, the DCSAA will follow a “Condensed Interscholastic Plan” with the winter sports starting their playing schedules first. Team practices begin on Dec. 14 with games reduced to a two-month competition between Jan. 4 to Feb. 28. Meanwhile, spring athletics starts from April 19 until June 13.

DCSAA will need the final approval from Mayor Muriel Bowser as well as the D.C. Department of Health to go forward with the new athletic schedule. Ray called the reduced plan “the best solution” based on the current data and science that assures students will have the opportunity to play during the 2020-21 school year.

“These are unprecedented times, and first and foremost, the DCSAA remains committed to the welfare of our student-athletes,” Chairperson Rosalyn Overstreet-Gonzalez said. “We are hopeful this model will keep all of our incredible student-athletes engaged and focused and also allow them to take the court or the field this school year and showcase their talents.”

Individual conferences that host private and independent schools within DCSAA can still have their member institutions participate in athletics in a different schedule.

The most recognized private school league in the D.C.-area, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), has yet to announce its decision to hold a fall season.

MIAA, IAAM delay start until late September

In a joint statement, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) announced the delayed start to their 2020 fall season, as practices will start on Sept. 1 and games will take place after Sept. 21.

The two governing bodies of private school sports, representing boys (MIAA) and girls (IAAM) of over 30 institutions, were set to start training camps in mid-August.

The two-week pushback will also include the waiver of blackout periods and out of season practice policies until further notice.

While the start dates are in September, the board of governors of both leagues will meet in August to determine if the delay needs to be extended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Once an official start date is confirmed, a newly revised schedule for fall athletics will be released, the statement said.

“Participation in healthy athletic practices provides our student-athletes opportunities to compete, build character, acquire, and improve skills, demonstrate leadership, and have fun,” the statement said. “Both leagues hope to honor this commitment and, at the same time, keep athletes and their coaches as healthy as possible.”

Public schools in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have announced their intentions to start their school years virtually but not if fall athletics will remain as scheduled.

In early June, the Maryland State Board of Education passed a resolution that would allow area public school systems the flexibility to schedule their interscholastic athletics based on “local conditions” created by COVID-19.

DeMatha football standout Greg Penn III commits to LSU

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Four-star linebacker will take his talents to SEC football powerhouse 

BALTIMORE — DeMatha linebacker Greg Penn III, a four-star recruit and highly touted prospect of prominent college football programs, announced his commitment to Louisiana State University (LSU) on Sunday afternoon.

The rising senior recently narrowed his school list down to six: LSU, Maryland, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas A&M. Of those six, he was expected to commit to either LSU or South Carolina. 

On July 6, Penn posted on Twitter that he would publicly decide on July 12, leaving hundreds in anticipation of the announcement.

In a three-and-a-half-minute video posted to Penn’s Instagram page, he announced his commitment to the 2020 NCAA football championship program.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank God for the gifts that he has provided both on and off the football field. I also want to thank the many coaches and universities for recognizing my talents,” said Penn, who helped the Stags to a 7-4 record in 2019.

“Through this journey, my family has been my biggest fan…they are my reason why. I would like to thank my dad for encouraging me to strive for greatness, academically and athletically. I am thankful for my current and former coaches, as well as my trainers for believing in me.

“A special thanks to my DeMatha brothers, the DeMatha administration, and teachers who helped me to be the best version of myself. To whom much is given, much is expected. Therefore, I will be taking my gifts to the Louisiana State University.”

Penn, a tenacious pass rusher with a 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame, is regarded as a good fit for LSU’s defensive scheme. Past conversations and encounters between LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and Penn likely played a large part in the prospect’s decision. 

“They have a great track record of getting linebackers to the league,” Penn said according to a report. “Coach Pelini and I really have a great relationship. Over the last couple of months, our relationship has really gone to the next level and I just feel comfortable there. I could really just see myself playing in that stadium when I went to that Florida game. I really got chills and I knew that’s where I wanted to go.”

Penn is the latest addition in LSU’s prolific 2020 recruiting class, many of whom are nationally ranked defensive standouts at their respective high school programs. 

A 24/7 Sports report noted Penn’s characterization of LSU as LBU (‘linebacker university’), a reference to the school’s pipeline of linebackers into the NFL over recent years. Penn hopes to join the class of elite DeMatha athletes to make his mark on the collegiate level when he transitions to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2021.

Gonzaga star Caleb Williams announces college decision on Fourth of July

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./The Sports Pulse

WASHINGTON — Gonzaga College High School’s Caleb Williams, widely regarded as one of the nation’s top prospects in football, announced his commitment to the University of Oklahoma on Saturday evening.

The five-star quarterback, ranked No. 4 overall in the class of 2021 by 247Sports and No. 1 overall as a dual-threat quarterback by ESPN, had more than 20 offers, including Alabama, Maryland, Clemson, LSU and Florida State. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder made the announcement via Twitter and on a live broadcast of CBS Sports HQ.

“With the past three quarterbacks, I honestly felt like it was for me…with what Coach [Lincoln] Riley has been able to do, I kinda just want to learn and hopefully get to the next level,” Williams said in an interview with CBS Sports.

“I got a year [left] here [at Gonzaga], but I’m ready to go and gain the trust of my teammates, earn a starting spot and hopefully help them get to a national championship.”

Over the past few seasons, OU has emerged as a program that has produced high-caliber quarterbacks. Two of the last three Heisman Trophy winners – Baker Mayfield in 2017 and Kyler Murray in 2018 – played for the Sooners. Jalen Hurts, a recent second-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, was a Heisman runner-up in 2019.

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson had a few words of acknowledgment for Williams, the rising senior at the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) football powerhouse in Northwest D.C.

“What’s up, Caleb? It’s all about making good choices. Welcome to the family, and I wish you nothing but the best. Boomer Sooner,” said Peterson, a former Oklahoma standout.

In addition to being named the MVP of the 2020 Elite 11 Finals for the nation’s top high school quarterbacks, Williams registered 1,770 passing yards for 19 passing touchdowns and 838 yards on the ground for 18 rushing touchdowns in the 2019 season. 

One of the unforgettable moments of Williams’ prolific career was a last-second heave into the end zone to win the 2018 WCAC title game over DeMatha as a sophomore.

Oklahoma has already landed 11 high-profile prospects, receiver Mario Williams, tight end Ethan Downs and cornerback Latrell McCutchin, as the Big 12 program prepares for the 2020 season.

The latest member of OU’s class of 2021 recruiting class, Williams has been esteemed as “the most talented quarterback prospect to come from the Mid-Atlantic region in a decade” and “projects as a multi-year impact starter at the Power Five level with the upside to first round if not top 10 pick in the NFL Draft” according to an assessment by 247Sports’ Charles Power.

Gonzaga head coach Randy Trivers weighed in on Williams making the jump to the next level.

“Caleb Williams is rare talent,” Trivers said. “His excellence is most prominent when a competitive challenge arises. Oklahoma is fortunate to get this Eagle to eventually wear the Sooner uniform.”

Our favorite photos from the Spring Sports Season

Baseball: Photos by Mike Clark/The Sports Pulse

The Coronavirus pandemic has swept the nation and has taken away sports altogether for us to enjoy.

However, we wanted to showcase the work of our award-winning photographers. Each week we will have them select their Top 10 favorite photos from each sport throughout the spring sports season.

We will run these galleries until every sport that we cover is represented to get you closer to the action until life returns to normal.

Our favorite photos from the Spring Sports Season

Baseball: Photos by Michael Smith/The Sports Pulse

The Coronavirus pandemic has swept the nation and has taken away sports altogether for us to enjoy.

However, we wanted to showcase the work of our award-winning photographers. Each week we will have them select their Top 10 favorite photos from each sport throughout the spring sports season.

We will run these galleries until every sport that we cover is represented to get you closer to the action until life returns to normal.

Our favorite photos from the Spring Sports Season

Baseball: Photos by Cory Royster/The Sports Pulse

The Coronavirus pandemic has swept the nation and has taken away sports altogether for us to enjoy.

However, we wanted to showcase the work of our award-winning photographers. Each week we will have them select their Top 10 favorite photos from each sport throughout the spring sports season.

We will run these galleries until every sport that we cover is represented to get you closer to the action until life returns to normal.

Wizards stars Bonga and Smith give back to DCPS community

By The Sports Pulse Staff

WASHINGTON – Washington Wizards players Isaac Bonga and Ish Smith have partnered with the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) to assist families that are part of the DCPS community.

Smith made a personal financial donation that assisted a DCPS program to support basic needs in the Anacostia, Ballou, Kelly Miller and Kramer school communities.  

His personal donation will provide 120 families who were not able to leave their home with critical personal items such as laundry detergent, dish soap, cleaning supplies, diapers and feminine products. He will also provide 100 hygiene kits each week, for a total of three weeks, to Kelly Miller Middle School and Ballou High School families when they come to pick up meals.