High school football games to kick off a half hour later due to sweltering heat

Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 10:13 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - High school football is fast approaching, but things will kick off a little different this year.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) announced games will start a half hour later than normal because of the sweltering heat. The later start time will last through September.

MHSAA’s executive director, Rickey Neaves, said it’s been about eight years since the last time high school football games had a 7:30 p.m. start time.

It has also been about eight years since Jackson Prep football player Walker Wilbanks died shortly after a game due to a combination of hydration and low sodium levels.

“Yesterday during the meeting when this was passed, the statement was made that the worst thing that can happen to a school is to lose a student-athlete during a game or practice because of heat exhaustion,” Neaves said.

Neaves said MHSAA has made several changes to protect athletes from the heat since the time of Wilbanks’ death. The adjusted start time is just the most recent.

“[His death] caused a lot of our schools to be required to have water available at all times, to take frequent water breaks, and have a cold tub out there in case someone collapses,” he said.

Other measures put in place over the years include ‘heat timeouts’ that also last through September to give players extra time to cool off and hydrate.

Another is a 14-day period for players to get acclimated to the high temps. Neaves said this two-week window elevates gradually, starting with players not putting on full gear for the first five days.

“Any measure that we can take that we feel like enhances the safety of our student-athletes, we will do,” he said.

The first game of the season kicks off on August 26th.

Neaves said the later start time is only for varsity football because middle school and junior varsity only play six-minute quarters as opposed to 12.

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