While the fall high school sports season is temporarily on hold, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association finally gave its belated green light to conduct all high school athletics beginning in 2021, with the winter, fall and spring seasons each lasting five weeks.

All high school athletics in Maryland have been on hold since mid-March amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the boys’ and girls’ state basketball tournaments being the biggest casualty early. The 2020 spring sports season barely started and fall sports were postponed indefinitely when the 2020-21 school year began. But now the door is open for a belated, condensed trio of sports seasons.

Last week the MPSSAA announced that winter sports would begin on Feb. 1 next year, beginning with two weeks of conditioning and practices and then games would run Feb. 22 to March 27. Fall sports would follow with practices in March and lasting through April 4 with games running April 5 to May 8. Spring sports practices will start April 26 and games will transpire May 17 to June 19.

Coaches and athletes from across the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference could breathe a sigh of relief following the latest announcement. While the sports seasons will be condensed with some overlap between winter and fall and again between fall and spring, there likely will be high school sports again in 2021.

“One thing about the schedule is there is going to be some overlap, but I’m hoping that everyone gets to play for a state championship,” said Northern High School volleyball and baseball coach Bobby Gibbons. “I’m hoping that kids that play two or three sports will still have the chance to play multiple sports. But just getting back into the gym will be a big plus for me and the athletes.”

Lackey High School athletic director John Lush is less concerned about the duration of the seasons than simply having them. The former longtime Chargers’ football coach is eager to see how well his teams fare in the condensed seasons ahead.

“I think it’s exciting that all the kids at least will have the chance to play,” Lush said. “Of course, a lot could change between now and then. But it looks hopeful. It was tough for the seniors who missed out on spring sports. Now it looks as though the seniors this year will have the chance to compete.”

Several months after having her junior season preempted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Huntingtown High School senior softball Caroline Morey will seek to guide the Hurricanes to a third straight 3A state title — there were no spring sports in 2020 and Huntingtown won consecutive crowns in 2018 and 2019 — without benefit of a full year of pitching underneath her.

“It was tough not being able to have a season in the spring,” said Morey, one of three pitchers on the Maryland Firecrackers 18-U squad. “That was going to be my first year starting. I knew that I had some big shoes to fill. But even if it starts later than normal and only lasts five weeks, it beats not having a season.”

The announcement by the MPSSAA comes on the heels of St. Mary’s public schools announcing they would allow for short-season high school sports beginning on Sept. 21. In a release sent out earlier this month, the county noted that spring sports would take place first in an abbreviated season, then would offer shortened fall sports and winter sports thereafter. The seasons will include practices and a few scrimmages, likely between the three public high schools in St. Mary’s.

According to the release, spring sports will run from Sept. 21 to Oct. 23, followed by fall sports Oct. 26 to Dec. 4, then followed by winter sports Dec. 7 to Jan. 28. That would lead into the beginning of the revived winter sports season as set out by the MPSSAA, which would allow for practices to begin on Feb. 1.

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