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Politics and pigskin will clash, at least for one week in Hillsborough County

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Thu. July 12, 2012 | Joey Knight | Email

Politics and pigskin will clash, at least for one week in Hillsborough County

TAMPA — Around here, kickoffs and climates don’t always mesh. More than once in recent years, inclement weather has threatened or wiped out the opening week of the high school football season.

This year, the forecast again is bleak. Only this time, the season’s inaugural Friday night is being jeopardized by neither disturbance nor depression, but a massive front of delegates.

Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson said Thursday that the first week of regular-season public school games — slated for Friday, Aug. 31 — will have to be rescheduled because of the Republican National Convention being held in Tampa the same week.

“It’s going to be very difficult (to have Aug. 31 games),” Robinson acknowledged.

Three private school contests to be played locally on that date — at Berkeley Prep, Brandon High (a Seffner Christian game) and Carrollwood Day — are set to go on as scheduled, coaches and athletic directors at those schools told the Tampa Bay Times.

The status of the opening week’s marquee game — Plant at private school rival Jesuit — remains unclear.

"We'd prefer to play on Friday (Aug. 31), but that's all pending us being able to secure a police presence at the game," Jesuit athletic director Terry Rupp said. "That's what we're working on right now."

As for the public contests, all rescheduling options will be considered, Robinson suggested.

“Nothing’s been taken off the table,” he said, “except for Friday night.”

The convention, sure to require the police security — and perhaps medical personnel — that normally would be staffed for football games, runs Aug. 27-30. By the evening of Aug. 31, most of those emergency and law-enforcement types could be too exhausted to watch a football game, much less monitor one.

Robinson said he’d like to have a Plan B implemented “ASAP.”

“But we run into the problem of summertime of getting people together with vacations and such,” he said. “We’re talking about it. We’ve got to get all the players involved and come to some type of resolution.”

Robinson said the school district has a contract for a certain number of emergency medical technicians and off-duty police officers for each public-school contest. The numbers vary with each game, depending on the size of the audience.

Playing the games on Sept. 1 remains an option, though obstacles for that day include a slew of season-opening college football contests — including USF’s home game against Tennessee-Chattanooga — that could affect attendance for prep contests.

Delaying the start of the regular season by a week is impossible; the state playoffs begin one week after the end of the regular season. One idea floating in coaching circles is moving the Aug. 31 games to Aug. 24, a date reserved for preseason contests, and making Aug. 31 a universal bye week.

“The reason Saturday scares me to death is it’s Labor Day weekend,” Alonso coach Brian Emanuel said. “I don’t know how many people are heading out of town or what that might bring. And of course, Monday is Labor Day.”

Photo: Jesuit fans before last year's season opener at Plant.

Joey Knight can be reached at jknight@tampabay.com

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