Gulf Shores, Orange Beach suspend football programs, cancel Friday’s games


FOLEY, Alabama — Following an announcement Monday that Baldwin County High School had suspended athletic practice and competition for three sports for the next 10 days, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach announced Tuesday that they were suspending football practices, and canceling Friday’s games.

In separate statements, Gulf Shores City School Superintendent Dr. Matt Akin and Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler said that no positive cases had been reported at either school, but cited “an abundance of caution.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Akin said because of concerns related to COVID-19, Gulf Shores officials canceled football practice this week and the Dolphins’ home 6A Region 1 opener Friday night against the Spanish Fort Toros.

“At this time, no football players have tested positive for COVID-19,” according to the statement, “but some athletes have reported symptoms and others have been in close contact with individuals who have symptoms.

Gulf Shores was 1-1 heading into Friday’s contest with an opening loss to the Elberta Warriors followed by a win last week at Brookwood. The Makos were also 1-1, winning their inaugural varsity contest Aug. 21 at home against J.F. Shields before falling to Fruitdale at home last week.

On Tuesday, Tyler released a statement saying that, after consultation with Orange Beach Principal Erika McCoy, the decision was made to suspend the Makos’ football program for this week, including Orange Beach’s home game Friday at Leroy.

“This decision is being made proactively, in an abundance of caution,” according to Tyler’s statement. “The school plans to evaluate the situation this week and make a decision on possibly extending this suspension for two weeks, after we have test results and better facts.”

As was the case with Baldwin County High, Tyler said they did not see a specific causation with Orange Beach.

“We are aware the coronavirus is in our schools, at our practice fields, within our communities and at home,” according to the statement. “We do not know if these athletes spread the virus through their contact at practice or through their contact outside of campus. We do know some athletes from both schools were together this past weekend socially.”

With one quarter of its football programs now closed, Tyler said, while it is fair to ask if there is a bigger problem with organized athletics, at this time, he does not believe that is the case.

“The numbers are not as high as one might think, and in some instances, there are no confirmed COVID cases, only suspected,” he said. “In my discussion with these principals, the focus is on the health of their students and the preservation of their athletic season. By acting quickly and early, they believe there is a better chance to protect both. I agree and this is why I continue to leave this up to the local principals and athletic directors. As I have said throughout this process, we reserve the right to change or implement new policies as we see fit to protect our students, staff and community and I will continue to monitor numbers and trends.”

On Monday, Tyler released a statement saying that Baldwin County’s move was made after consultation with Principal Craig Smith and Athletic Director/Head Football Coach Scott Rials.

According to a published report, the sports of football, cross country and volleyball would be affected by the suspension.

A statement was released on the BCHS Tigers Football Facebook Page on Monday that the Tigers varsity football contests at home Sept. 4 against Blount and on the road Sept. 11 at Saraland, both 6A Region 1 contests, have been canceled.

According to the report, both games would have to be forfeited, leaving the Tigers with an 0-3 overall record, 0-2 in 6A Region 1 competition following an opening home loss to Mary G. Montgomery Aug. 21. BCHS was not scheduled to play Aug. 28. The Tigers next scheduled contest is at Spanish Fort Sept. 18.

“I am pleased with how our protocols have worked thus far,” according to Tyler’s statement on Monday, “and we will continue to spray our facilities and implement our standard mitigation protocols while actively monitoring case reports.”

In both Monday and Tuesday’s statements, Tyler said because of federal privacy laws, Baldwin County Public Schools cannot break down COVID-19 numbers any further than what is provided in the nightly COVID Transparency Report.

“We do not have a set number on possible/confirmed cases when making this determination but rather leave it up to the principals and athletic directors to decide what is best for their school and athletes,” according to the statement. “Thank you for your time and continued support of Baldwin County Public Schools.”