If the weather cooperated, Oneida was set to face Coalfield for a baseball double-header on Monday, the last scheduled sporting event before high school sports entered a shutdown mode in an effort to stem the growing coronavirus outbreak.
Both local school systems released students at 12:30 p.m. Monday, and classes will not resume until at least April 1. Initially, Oneida schools were cancelled through March 27, while Scott County schools intended to reexamine its situation after March 20. But that changed Monday morning, when Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee called on all schools across the state to close through March 31. As long as schools are closed, sports teams will not be practicing or playing games.
That means baseball, softball and soccer teams, along with track and field, will all become inactive.
Meanwhile, Oneida High School’s basketball team continues to await final word from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletics Association (TSSAA) on whether the state basketball tournament — originally scheduled to begin Wednesday in Murfreesboro — will be played. TSSAA announced on March 12 that it was suspending the boys tournament and the conclusion of the girls tournament. The Indians, who were to have made their first state tournament appearance in 22 years, were to have played East Robertson on Thursday.
Oneida head coach Jacob King on Friday said that he didn’t intend to hold additional practices while word is awaited from TSSAA, adding that he had talked to other coaches who were taking the same approach.
“How can you practice for something when you don’t know if it’s going to happen?” King said. He added at the time that he would release his players for baseball and soccer if he hadn’t heard final word from TSSAA by Monday. But that became a moot point on Sunday, when both school systems announced their intent to close.
The impact was immediate. Oneida’s soccer team, which picked up a 9-1 win over Clinton in the season-opener on Thursday, was to have faced Anderson County on Tuesday and Sweetwater on Friday. Instead, Indians head coach Derek Keeton said his team would practice on Monday, then be finished until school resumes.
Keeton said on Sunday that he was hoping to resume the season immediately after Oneida’s school closure ended on March 27, if Anderson County was willing to reschedule for Saturday, March 28.
However, those plans were nixed Monday with the governor’s call for schools to remain closed into the following week.
Scott High soccer, meanwhile, had already seen Monday’s game against Northview Academy canceled after Sevier County Schools closed due to virus concerns. The Highlanders were to have traveled to Clinton on Friday, another game that will be cancelled.
“It’s kind of a jumble,” Highlander head coach Eric Henry said of the rest of the season. “We may be in school and another system out when we had a game scheduled.”
Henry said there could be a scenario where not all district games will be played, but he remains hopeful that the season will continue after the virus fears have subsided and schools reopen.
“I am a passionate coach of soccer,” he said. “It’s not football or basketball, but I’m very disappointed about the cancellation of school and games. These student-athletes care just as much about their sport as the other popular sports. They work, they train, all the stuff.”
Once classes resume, he said, “I’m going to play every possible game I can.”
Henry said schools have received little guidance from TSSAA so far. The association issued a statement Friday, leaving regular season spring sports matchups to the discretion of each member school.
TSSAA’s board of control is scheduled to meet via conference call on Tuesday. A final decision is expected on the state basketball tournaments at that time, as well as an update on the spring sports calendar moving forward.