St Michael's pep rally

Quarterback Jalen Smith and head coach Hugh Brown gather their teammates for a final break on their practice field after they won the VISAA state football championship in November.

An announcement last week from the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association that it will not sponsor fall sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t deterred the St. Michael football program.

Warriors head coach and school co-founder Hugh Brown said Monday that St. Michael is hosting an athletics interest meeting on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Brown said there has been discussion in the Fredericksburg area that St. Michael—the 2019 VISAA Division III state champions—is a viable option for public school players in the region that have doubt if the Virginia High School League season will take place.

The VHSL announced on Monday that football practice will begin Feb. 15 with the first contest taking place on March 1. The season will end May 1.

St. Michael and its Battlefield Conference counterparts have combined with the Tidewater-based Metro Conference to form a league. The Warriors and others are awaiting word from other VISAA schools to see if they want to join in and play a schedule of at least eight games this fall.

There is also discussion of forming a one-year alliance to take the place of VISAA.

“What some of the men who ran the football committee for VISAA are trying to find out is how many schools in VISAA actually intend on playing,” Brown said. “That information is kind of critical in determining what a schedule and even a potential league would look like. We should have that information by the end of the week.”

Still, Brown said there is enough participation from the newly formed Battlefield and Metro league to play a fall season. St. Michael has its first game scheduled for Aug. 29 against Broadwater Academy.

Fredericksburg Christian School coach Billy Thomas said the Eagles are exploring joining the Warriors and others in the fall.

Thomas noted that FCS will begin school in-person on Aug. 17. Thomas believes the fall sports season will go forward as long as Virginia remains in Phase III or better.

“Every public and private school’s biggest fear is we get dropped back a phase,” Thomas said. “That would make it too tough to be able to do.”

Brown is wondering if St. Michael and FCS will see an influx of public school talent. Division I recruits like Louisa running back Robert Morgan IV, a Howard University commit, have already said they’re not playing football in the spring because of early enrollment.

Others haven’t made up their mind. Brown said the meeting on Wednesday will reveal if there is serious interest in private school programs. He said some families may be concerned the VHSL’s proposed season will hit a snag. School districts could also opt out of allowing sports.

Brown said he’s heard indirectly that private school will be an option.

“I think that’s been the rumor,” Brown said. “We haven’t heard from a lot of kids directly. Most people were waiting to see what would happen [with the VHSL Monday]. But families are invested in knowing what the school their kid attends is going to do. It’s a big decision.”

VHSL assistant director Tom Dolan noted during a press conference on Monday that players who participate for a private school in the fall will be ineligible to return to their former school and play in the spring.

Taft Coghill Jr: 540/374-5526

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