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Pinellas County moves start times for high school football games this fall

The county’s athletic director says part of the motivation is the typical rainy Florida weather, which often delays games.

Pinellas County is trying something new. The county’s public high schools will move football start times a half-hour earlier this season, with junior varsity games starting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays and varsity games starting at 7 p.m. on Fridays.

Al Bennett, the county’s athletic director, said the move was proposed by school athletic directors throughout Pinellas.

The hope is that by moving the start times earlier, teams will miss some of the rain delays they’ve experienced over the past couple of years — which has some games ending around 11 p.m., he said. For junior varsity players, they have to go to school the next day, which is another concern for late-night finishes.

“We’re going to try it for a year and see if it works out, if it’s beneficial," he said.

Related: Spring sports season is officially lost for Tampa Bay high schools

One of the concerns that has come up with this new proposal is difficulties with transportation. Some coaches have opposed the new plan because they’re worried traveling teams won’t get to the field in a timely fashion with the resources currently available. Some are also worried that parents won’t be able to make it to the game by kickoff, coming to the field straight from work.

“There’s some people who don’t think it’s a great idea,” Bennett said, “and there’s some people who think it’s the greatest idea in the world.”

Bennett said he plans to look at using commercial transportation if necessary, especially for the games where teams have to travel across the county. For example, if East Lake were to play St. Petersburg, the traveling team would use a commercial bus instead of a school bus.

Related: Time to bid adieu to August’s water-logged prep football

“Transportation is a concern,” he said. “But that’s kind of my job, to make sure the teams get there on time and use early drivers and commercial buses when we have to."

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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