OK, 9 o’clock in the morning is early for a high school football game by nearly any standards, but moving the kickoff for Westover High School and Lee County High School’s nationally televised game Saturday to 9 a.m. was a responsible move that shows the school system’s are rightfully concerned about the health of the student-athletes who’ll be on the field.
The original midday starting time would have been questionable a month from now, given the lingering heat and humidity that engulfs our region. On a Saturday in August, you were only going to pull it off under ideal weather conditions, and Saturday is expected to be anything but ideal. Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Tallahassee was predicting a that temperatures will have reached 97 degrees by the original 1 p.m. kickoff. The mercury would have been topping 101 before the final buzzer.
With a 9 a.m. start, it’ll still be a warm 82 degrees that will stretch up to the mid-90s before the game is over, but that’s a lot more manageable with humidity expected to be in the mid-50s. Coaches and their staff will still need to keep a close eye on their players to make sure they’re properly hydrated and not in danger of heat sickness, but the chances of a serious illness should be considerably lessened.
Fortunately, it doesn’t appear that the change will affect the chance for our athletes to get some national exposure on the ESPNU channel. The game was still scheduled Thursday to be broadcast live — now at 9 a.m. — and then rebroadcast at 1 p.m.
The chance of heat illness is lessened for those on the field and folks around the country will still get to see what Southwest Georgia high school football looks like. It’ll also be a great deal more comfortable for others on the field — cheerleaders, bands, coaches, staff and referees — and those watching from the stands. Our guess is the earlier hour, if it has an impact on attendance at all, will mean more people in the stands for this great contest.
That means it’s a win all around. But more importantly, it shows that the adults involved have exhibited that the health and safety of the the students are the top consideration. They should all be commended for doing the right thing.
— The Albany Herald Editorial Board