Ben Bolt becomes first HS in Texas to cancel football season

A major domino fell Monday as the first high school in Texas canceled its 2020-21 football and volleyball seasons.

Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco, a Class 2A high school located south of Alice, announced the cancellation of its football and volleyball seasons Monday morning due to COVID-19.

The move directly impacts Rio Grande Valley programs like La Villa and Santa Maria, which share a football district with Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco in District 16-2A DI.

Jim Wells County health orders state schools should remain remote through Oct. 9. Last week, the Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco ISD school board voted to keep instruction virtual for the first nine weeks of school. While school is remote, the school district isn’t allowing athletic activities until after Oct. 30.

With athletics not allowed to begin until the week of Nov. 2, the final week of the high school football regular season for Class 1A-4A programs, Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco ISD decided to pull the plug entirely.

“As far south as we are, a good portion of our games are even further south. COVID-19 is really scary down there,” Ben Bolt athletic director Gary Cunningham told the Corpus Christi Caller Times. “The board felt they couldn’t, with a good conscience, put our kids in that situation. Or have the Rio Grande Valley teams come up here to play us.”

As for volleyball, the district certification deadline is set for Oct. 27. Ben Bolt’s volleyball team wouldn’t be allowed to begin practicing until the following week, once the UIL volleyball state playoffs are already underway.

While football and volleyball won’t be played at Ben Bolt this season, the school’s cross-country program will be able to compete as athletes can train individually before returning in time for the District 32-2A cross country meet.

With Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco canceling its football season, that leaves just four teams in District 16-2A DI — La Villa, Premont, Riviera Kaufer and Santa Maria.

La Villa head coach and athletic director Danny Perez expects the District 16-2A DI executive committee to meet soon to determine schedules for the remaining four football teams in 16-2A DI.

Santa Maria remains on track to begin football practices Sept. 8, while La Villa is set to start Sept. 28, in accordance with Cameron and Hidalgo County health orders.