Eagles eye football kickoff; association sets dates for fall sports opening


By Andy Diffenderfer, Sports Editor

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Rabun Gap Eagles

Some clarity to Rabun Gap-Nacoochee’s football schedule could hopefully arrive early next week, and other fall sports can proceed under an Aug. 31 target date for their first competitions.

The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) — of which Rabun Gap is a member — announced a delayed schedule Monday with practices opening Aug. 10, scrimmages permitted starting Aug. 24, and non-football contests launching Aug. 31.

The projected Sept. 4 start of football detailed in a press release is prompting RGNS athletic director Dale Earnhardt to seek verification on whether that date represents practices or games. The answer could come in a meeting early next week. 

“I read it, and I talked to several people, and they all interpreted it a little different,” he said Tuesday. “My understanding was the first potential game could be Sept. 4, but we definitely have to be practicing before that.”

Rabun Gap is among 35 NCISAA schools which offer football. 

“I think what the NCISAA said is, ‘We are planning on doing football in some capacity,’” he said. “I think the exact plan of when it starts is still a moving target. The meetings next week I think will clarify and get the pulse of what schools that have football are thinking.”

The Eagles’ targeted start date for football practice is Aug. 10. “That’s what we’re shooting for, until we are told otherwise,” he said. 

Earnhardt and Lakeview Academy head football coach Lee Shaw have been in contact about a tentative scrimmage Aug. 28 between the schools at Rabun Gap. The game was originally set for Aug. 14.

“I’m going to try to get that scrimmage on the calendar,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve got to find somebody as a potential opponent on Sept. 4.”

Independent schools can have more flexibility, he said, choosing to play a certain number of games or none.

“As long as we get to play, my thinking is, if we have to wait to start official practice until late August, first of September, I can live with it, as long as I know we’re going to get to play by mid-September and we get to play into November,” he said. “Each state’s doing things so differently … I wish I had more definites.”

Eagle student-athletes participating in boys soccer and volleyball are scheduled to report Aug. 10, and cross-country, girls golf and girls tennis Aug. 17. 

Earnhardt doesn’t anticipate many changes to those schedules, though some lost contests could be reset. School begins Aug. 26, five days before competitions are permitted.  

“In some ways, it works really well for us,” he said. “Now we can focus on the start of school. The following week is when we start trying to play games. We’ll have a better idea of how things are going with the class day and stuff like that.”