Bond reaches the end zone

Watauga runner Jaiden Bond scores a touchdown in the Pioneers’ scrimmage against East Surry in 2019.

CHAPEL HILL — The North Carolina High School Athletic Association Board of Directors has approved legislation that establishes new contact limitations for football during spring and fall practice sessions.

The NCHSAA held its two-day meeting April 27-28. The board, which met virtually because of the COVID-19 virus, took some steps recommended by the NCHSAA to improve safety for the players during offseason and season practices.

NCHSAA Assistant Commissioner Tra Waters said football coaches felt they needed more time in the spring to evaluate players before going into summer. To help avoid injuries, the board approved players to be able to run full speed during a tackling drill, but not make any full contact.

Schools will be allowed to do 60 minutes of that drill where players making limited contact, but no actual tackling is done. The practice skill is known as a “bump” technique, which helps coaches to properly teach players better fundamentals of tackling.

“For example, you run a toss play outside,” Waters said. “The running back gets 10 yards downfield, the safety comes across, he gets his body in the correct position, he tags him on his hip and runs by him. Or, he slows down, wraps him up and the play is over. Nobody is taken to the ground and no forceful contact is made.”

Waters said coaches told him that defensive players were allowed to hold tackling pads, but were not learning the mechanics of tackling and felt that this method was safer than holding a pad.

Waters also said this drill cannot be done during summer workouts.

Scrimmage hours reduced

The overall number of scrimmage hours has also been reduced for football. Football teams used to be limited to seven hours of live-contact per scrimmage, but that has been reduced to five hours.

Teams are also required to have no contact for 48 hours between scrimmages, except at jamborees. Since those are one-day affairs, they count as one event.

The board also voted to limit contact during football practice. During preseason, which includes the first day of fall practice to the Monday before the first game week, players are limited to 15 minutes of live-action contact per day.

Once the season begins, teams are limited to just 15 minutes of live-action contact per week. That includes full-speed drills, scrimmages between offenses and defenses where players are taken to the ground.

State basketball co-champs declared

The board, in their meetings earlier in the week, also approved the naming of the prep basketball teams that won their regional championship games as state co-champions.

That includes the Freedom boys’ basketball team, which won the 3-A western regional with a 58-56 in over Gastonia Huss on March 7. Freedom was scheduled to play Fayetteville Westover in the state finals, but prep athletics were shut down before the teams could play because of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Both teams were declared state co-champions.

“We just simply did the best we could that everybody is trying to do at this time,” NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said. “We’re still dealing with some unknowns and as my colleagues across the country and I have said, we are moving from a reactive and into more of a proactive position, such as it is. We are still in that holding pattern waiting to see what will be allowed in the coming weeks and the coming months.”

Freedom’s season ended with a 29-1 record. It’s the first state championship for Freedom’s boys’ team since the Patriots won the 2014 title.

Soccer changes

The board also approved adjustments to the soccer playoff calendar.

Soccer playoff games will be played on Mondays and Thursdays for early rounds. An adjustment was also made to allow regular season contests to end as a tie in boys’ and girl’s soccer following two 10-minute overtime periods.

The board also approved the distribution of grant funds in excess of $120,000 to member schools requesting and awarded through the inaugural NCHSAA Grant Program.

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