COLUMBUS — When Lieutenant Governor John Husted announced Thursday that contact sports were allowed to resume full contact practices and scrimmages beginning Monday, it gave area schools hope that a fall season would be able to happen.

Now, schools are starting to plan for competition.

“This was a huge announcement in my opinion,” Mount Vernon athletic director Justin Sanford said Thursday after Husted’s announcement. “I think as long as we don’t see any massive peaks or spikes in cases, that we’ll be able to start on time (with fall sports) in August, which is awesome.”

Highland, Mount Vernon and all of the area schools are taking their cues from local health departments on how many people are allowed to attend training sessions.

“We had met with the Morrow County Health Department to set up Phase 1, which had limited us to nine athletes inside plus a coach for a total of 10 and a total of 20 outside,” Highland athletic director Mike DeLaney said. “Two weeks later, the number inside went up to 20 and the number outside went up to 50. We were just excited that we were able to get with our kids and that the numbers were increasing.”

Highland hasn’t had anybody report symptoms in the first three weeks of training, DeLaney said.

“Our attendance has been great,” he said. “The kids are really excited to be there, to be working with their friends and their coaches. We really haven’t had any issues at all. The people have been great overall in terms of following protocols, taking temperatures at home and bringing masks with them for when they’re not involved. The coaches have been great too in terms of enforcing what the health department has asked them to do. So, it’s been really good.”

DeLaney, who also coaches girls soccer at Highland, sees the ability to scrimmage as an important step in training.

“As kids, we like to play the game, right? Working on fundamentals and skills is great, but eventually, you want to play the sport that you’re playing,” he said. “I’m glad that we were able to start doing that (Monday).”

He said his girls soccer team won’t begin to run intrasquad scrimmages until next month.

“I look at it as a less is more this early in the season,” DeLaney said. “Our season stretches into October. So, if you go too much too fast, you’re not really where you want to be in October. Instead, you’re there in September. They’ve been so long without doing anything and we’re concerned about injury prevention. We want to make sure the girls are in shape before we start actually playing. Girls soccer is very, very physical. It’s a very rough game, so they’ve gotta be ready to go.”

Both Mount Vernon and Highland have multi-team scrimmages scheduled in July. If Governor Mike DeWine hasn’t announced Phase 3 by then, those will have to be canceled as only intrasquad scrimmages are permitted in contact sports.

“Our soccer program — both boys and girls — was scheduled to go to the Strongsville tournament, which is a huge tournament at the end of July,” Sanford said. “It’s been on hold up to this point. With (Thursday’s) release, it looks like our soccer programs (may be able to) go up to Strongsville to be able to compete, play and actually have contact with folks.”

“We’re going to a tournament down at Jonathan Alder on July 25 and 26, hopefully if they allow it,” DeLaney said. “Right now, if that were to occur today, that wouldn’t be allowed. But we’re hoping things continue to advance and we’ll be able to do that.”

Husted’s announcement as well as the guidance provided on coronavirus.ohio.gov created some confusion, which caused by the use of the word, “Phases.”

The Ohio High School Athletic Association had released guidance with a three-phase process that schools were following. Phase 2 of that process began June 15 for many of the area schools.

“(The OHSAA was) trying to follow what the Governor was putting out there,” DeLaney said. “I think they did a great job of that and they have throughout the whole process.”

OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass sent a memo out to member schools to try to clear up the confusion.

Snodgrass said in the memo that the OHSAA would have chosen different phrasing in its initial guidance to schools, “If we had known” the Governor would use the same term.

“I think they’re melding those two together and going with what the Governor is calling Phase 2,” DeLaney said. “I don’t think the OHSAA is using their terminology of phases anymore. The OHSAA takes its guidance from the Governor’s office and the Ohio Department of Health. So, that’s why it’s so important that they finally got a seat at the table because now they can work with the information first-hand instead of after it’s already been decided.”

Snodgrass said in the memo that the OHSAA was now a part of the Governor’s advisory group.

The memo states that all low- and non-contact sports can continue with competitions, which were allowed to begin May 22.

Contact sports, which have been allowed to hold training and workout sessions since May 22 are now allowed to hold open gyms or fields as well as intrasquad scrimmages.

The memo also provided recommendations on how to handle attendance for contact sports. There is no restrictions on the amount of participants at open gyms or fields. The OHSAA is asking schools to consider limiting those participating to maintain social distancing.

The full memo can be found on the main page of OHSAA.org.

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Michael Rich: 740-397-5333 or mrich@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mrichnotwealthy