Pisgah football head coach Brett Chappell was ready to hit the turf come Sept. 1, but the team’s plans were turned upside down last week when NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker outlined the new plan for high school sports, which pushed the first game of the football season out to Feb. 26 and limited the season to just seven games apiece.
Chappell said that while his players were ready to play and may be disappointed with the delay, he is happy to at least have a concrete schedule to plan around from here forward. All the same, it will take work to ensure players and coaches alike maintain their focus through the long winter.
“We’re certainly sitting down and trying to see what’s the best path not only for us, but for others as well,” he said. “You have to be creative with your scheduling. It’s something that’s fluid and may change weekly or monthly or based on some circumstances that we don’t know about.”
Chappell said that after this week’s dead period, he anticipates workouts will continue, although some may also choose to play another sport — maybe even something like cross country, which previously overlapped with football.
“You may have some that decide to do that,” Chappell said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to the kids about this, but they might.”
The question on every Haywood County football fan’s mind is whether or not the historic County Clash between Pisgah and Tuscola will take place. Chappell pointed out that other schools with non-conference rivalries are in similar positions across the state, but also recognized the importance of the County Clash and seemed confident they could find a way.
“I certainly hope it’s something the seniors in Haywood County get to experience,” he said. “I feel like there will be a great effort made not only in Haywood County but I think the conferences will work together to make that happen … I’m anticipating something being able to happen.”
Should the big rivalry game get the go-ahead, it just might be fought out in the frigid cold or even on snowy turf. Chappell said he and his staff will have to think of ways to acclimate players to competing in such conditions. With a winter season comes other concerns, as well.
“You’re going to have to be really good about skedding practices so it doesn’t go late into the evening,” he said. “It’s going to be unique to itself in the timing it is. At the same time, it’ll be exciting. It’ll be new.”
When asked if Pisgah’s hardnosed, run-first style will work well in winter weather, Chappell, as usual, didn’t tip his hand or reveal any strategy.
“There are so many ways to look at it and so many questions to be answered,” he said. “I don’t know that anybody is going to have the right offense or defense or special teams or anything for how cold the weather is going to be at that time.”
Chappell said he hopes delaying the season will allow the country to put the worst of the pandemic behind it, which would mean Pisgah Stadium’s seats would be packed for football games, just like they are during any regular year.
“That could be the tradeoff with the delay,” he said.
Pisgah’s offseason was a tumultuous one when it came to the quarterback position. Within weeks of each other, both starter Korey Griffith, who had years of experience under center within Chappell’s system, and backup Kain Fortney both transferred.
“It isn’t just about quarterback or any one position,” he said. “When you look at it, the fact we didn’t have spring practice or summer was tough, and the more time you can spend with one position and all positions, the better you can be prepared going into the season.”