State Department of Education shuts down high school sports for two weeks

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The coronavirus has flipped the sports world on its head.

The Florida Dept. of Education has mandated a suspension of high school spring sports.

Following two days of mass cancellations and postponements in the pros in college, the Panhandle looked to high schools Friday with optimism and uncertainty.

Now high school sports are coming to a halt, with at least a two week suspension of not only spring sports, but all school activities from March 16 through March 29.

The decree comes from the Florida Department of Education, taking the decision out of the hands of local districts and administrators.

Baseball, softball, boys weightlifting, track and field, tennis, lacrosse and flag football seasons are put on hold as a result, some in the midst of competition late Friday afternoon.

Bay High School called off a varsity/J.V. doubleheader with Wewahitchka after the first inning of the J.V. contest.

While Bozeman and Sneads played the J.V. game and varsity players warmed up, a decision was made to continue with the night's events as scheduled following a conversation with Bay County athletic director Kirk Harrell.

The Bucks (10-0) beat Sneads (6-3) 10-0, bolstered by a 10 run barrage with no outs in the sixth inning and a 14 strikeout shutout by Tyler Lee.

While the stat line looks normal, this was no normal game.

"It feels kind of weird with all the virus stuff going around," Sneads senior Colton Mercer said before the game. "It feels just awkward playing because everyone else is shutting down."

Leading up to the game, Pirates coach Andy Shelton could sense what was coming around the bend.

"It's in the back of your head. I mean every time you turn around, you're like 'well, is this going to be it?' Or maybe we will be fortunate enough to keep playing. Don't know what's going to come."

Once the official word came, players and coaches hoped for the best but struggled to come to grips with an uncertain futute.

"I just try to play each day like it's my last," Bozeman senior Bryce Carver said. "Whether this game is my last or we play in two weeks, only time will tell...every time I whip out my phone, something new pops up. It's just wild."

"I haven't talked much about it," senior Brock Langlotz admitted. "We are just trying to stay calm and keep playing, you know? Try to see things as half full instead of half empty because you never know what's going to happen. I mean, two weeks, this whole thing could be over."

"I'm one of those guys who is not going to borrow tomorrow's problems," head coach Jeff Patton echoed. "Just wait for it to happen, wait to get the call because honestly I'm not going to have any control over it. People way higher than me are going to make that decision. The decision was made and I''m just going to remain hopeful that we can play again."

Sports are usually reliable and normal even when everything else is not. Unfortunately, the unreliability of each situation day-by-day is something Sneads pitcher Parker Hayes continues to grapple with.

"If you would have told me in first period I wasn't going to be playing baseball for another week, I'd have been lost out of my mind. I would have been brokenhearted if I had to sit at home tonight knowing not to play another two weeks. That would have killed me...I can't even mark it in words how bad I want to play the game again."

Now they wait. We all do.

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