Nineteen days after their final two-a-day practice and what they thought was their last early-morning wake-up call, Oakton football players will trudge into the locker room at 5:45 on Saturday morning, about an hour before the sun rises, and yawn their way through game-planning meetings.
An hour later, the team will load onto buses and head to Lee High School in Springfield, where the No. 15 Cougars will play South County (0-1) in a game that starts with a rub-the-sleep-from-your-eyes 9 a.m. kickoff.
With rain blanketing the area for much of the past week and grass fields too water-logged to host football games, area athletic directors were left scrambling in search of turf fields with open times for games. The situation only grew worse late Thursday night, when Fairfax and Prince William counties announced schools were closed on Friday, effectively canceling all games scheduled in the evening.
Oakton (1-0) reserved Lee’s field with its only available time — and did so about 10 minutes before a youth football league came calling. “We were lucky,” Oakton Coach Jason Rowley said.
Oakton’s experience with early-morning offseason practices makes the itinerary less daunting, linebacker CJ Reimann said. The Cougars met in the locker room at 5:45 a.m. this summer. This time, however, players also must get mentally prepared for a game.
“I do think it’ll be a little bit of a challenge,” Reimann said. “Sometimes the atmosphere around us helps. At 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning not a lot of high school kids are going to want to come out and watch a football game that early, especially with it raining. But we’re up for the challenge. We’re going to create our own atmosphere . . . we’re going to come out and treat it like a Friday night.”
Several schools had developed contingency plans. With all games in Fairfax and Prince William postponed because of schools closing, it was not immediately clear how those schedules would be affected. Late Thursday night, Rowley was again on the phone checking the status of his once-fortuitous 9 a.m. game slot.
Across the region, there were scheduling headaches for schools without artificial turf fields.
In Prince William County, new school Patriot, which is fielding only a junior varsity team this season, will host No. 12 Hylton vs. Stonewall Jackson on Saturday. Osbourn Park and Battlefield had moved their game to Patriot on Friday before school closures scuttled those plans.
“We haven’t been able to mow our field for a week, and getting lines on it is another story,” Battlefield Coach Mark Cox said. “Everybody’s going to have that problem. The lawn mower would get stuck.”
“Our field is a swamp right now,” Loudoun County Athletic Director Ken Wright said. “I don’t even know how I could get lines on it to play football. . . . Even if we wanted to play football here, we don’t have a choice. We’d need two or three hours for the grass to dry and another two or three hours for the paint to dry, otherwise we’re going to ruin $15,000 worth of uniforms.”
In Maryland, the weather created a tripleheader on North Point’s artificial turf on Saturday, with No. 10 Westlake-Thomas Stone at 1, La Plata-No. 18 McDonough at 4 and Lackey-North Point at 7. In Montgomery County, Churchill-Whitman and Blake-Sherwood moved their games from Friday to Saturday, hoping field conditions will improve. Kennedy and Wootton moved their game to Saturday night on Walter Johnson’s artificial turf. Also, the game between No. 14 Linganore and Bethesda-Chevy Chase has been moved to Linganore at 7 p.m., since the Barons’ field is unplayable.
All games in Howard County were postponed until Monday and will be played at neutral sites.
Prince George’s County officials had yet to make a determination about whether to postpone their games until Monday.
Staff writer Preston Williams and special correspondents Greg Schimmel and Matt Brooks contributed to this report.