PRINCE FREDERICK, Md. — Representatives from 12 of the 13 total organizations affiliated with the Southern Maryland Youth Athletic Conference(SMYAC) gathered under shelter from the rain at Hallowing Point Park on Wednesday night to discuss the plans for a fall football season or the impending lack thereof.

While last week one youth program, the Leonardtown Wildcats, opted to go ahead and cancel their fall season, the league recognized that their overall optimistic mindset on progress regarding COVID-19 and improving conditions of public health have fallen short. To the point where a decision had to be made.

“Nothing’s changed since last time we met as far as the phases that we’re in,” Greg Disney, SMYAC president said at the meeting. “We’re not even on a phase to start practicing yet. Originally, we were told two months ago, ‘if everything keeps going the way it’s going and the numbers are going down, I think you guys might be able to start practice sometime in August, and possibly start games sometime in September.’ That was two months ago. The numbers have gotten worse from [the health department’s] standpoint…”

“I think we’re just putting off the [inevitable],” Disney said.

While the conference moved to cancel the season, SMYAC vice president and PAX River Raiders’ president, David Burris, requested that the league reserve the right to reevaluate options in January to potentially play a shortened and age-restricted season in spring. 

Burris expressed his concerns for every child missing the season but was especially concerned for eighth-graders who would be missing their last season in the league. He is hoping that by spring the older athletes will be able to participate in some competition across the tri-county area, so long as it can be done safely. All organizations present were fine with the caveat.

“All the kids who started when they were six, seven years old, this will be their final year, then they’ll go play high school ball,” Burris said. “It’s sort of like a senior season, you know, and they get a special senior night, just to give them that farewell final. They get the last night of games, and everybody’s there to watch them. They’re like the varsity team… I’d like to give them a farewell season.”

However, some other pieces came into play in making this decision. Disney told that not only is it difficult to coordinate plans while individual counties are making their own decisions with some similar guidance from Gov. Larry Hogan, but the referee association that typically calls games recently backed out.

“[The referee association] backed out about three or four weeks ago. They said we would have to hunt down another organization, to do our games,” Disney said. “It’s safety’s first, but it’s also a lot of money involved. Insurance has got to be paid for, the equipment has got to be ordered in advance. You just can’t do that if you’re not having a season…

You know, nobody wants to do this, we’re as competitive as anybody. But you can see around the state [and nation], everybody’s doing it.”

While data and public health recommendations are changing every day, difficult decisions are being made simultaneously. However, the consensus among SMYAC programs appears to be that they are working within the best of their knowledge and the knowledge of overseeing entities.

“It’s probably the most logical decision we could have made based on what information that we have available to us,” Huntingtown Hurricanes Football Commissioner Patrick Parise said after the meeting. “If they can’t sit next to each other in school, I don’t see how they can play football. They can’t line up against each other. They can’t stand side-by-side. It’s a very difficult thing for these kids to go through, and it’s not going to happen.”

Read the league’s statement below:

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