Deshler Muscle Shoals football

Deshler and Muscle Shoals will play each other Sept. 25 in Tuscumbia, which was previously an open date for both teams. Muscle Shoals announced Wednesday it is suspending games in all sports until Sept. 1 due to COVID-19, and Deshler announced Wednesday it is not playing football until Sept. 4 against West Limestone. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

Muscle Shoals and Deshler announced significant changes to their athletic schedules Wednesday due to COVID-19.

Muscle Shoals teams in all sports will not play any games until Sept. 1, though they will continue practicing.

Deshler, meanwhile, is making no changes to cross country or volleyball schedules but will not play a football game until Sept. 4 at West Limestone.

Deshler announced its home football game against Muscle Shoals — originally set for Aug. 20 — will now be played Sept. 25, which was an open date for each team.

Muscle Shoals’ Aug. 28 game against Florence and Deshler’s Aug. 28 game against Russellville appear set to go down as forfeits by Muscle Shoals and Deshler, according to AHSAA rules about canceling games due to COVID-19, unless Florence or Russellville fills that date with a new opponent.

Florence coach Will Hester said Aug. 28 will effectively become a bye week on his team’s schedule.

Both those games are non-region games. Losses in non-region games do not affect playoff qualification except in tiebreaker situations. All local teams' region schedules remain intact.

Muscle Shoals City Schools superintendent Chad Holden told the TimesDaily he's spoken with local health officials and feels like delaying sports for a short time could be beneficial given the recent surge of cases.

“Hopefully by allowing the governor's mask ordinance to have an effect, we'll see a leveling off” of cases, Holden said.

Holden said Muscle Shoals teams will continue to practice as they have been doing since June.

Holden, who tested positive for COVID-19 this month, announced Tuesday the start of the school semester was being pushed back to Aug. 20. He said it makes sense to take a similarly cautious approach regarding the start of sports.

“We're not saying sports are canceled for the fall,” Holden said. “We're just hoping things get better.”

Muscle Shoals closed athletic practices June 24 after a football player tested positive for COVID-19 and reopened them less than a week later.

Holden said workouts have not been canceled again since then, but some athletes have missed practices after being around other people who tested positive for COVID-19.

Deshler paused athletic workouts after an athlete tested positive for COVID-19 on July 11 and resumed July 14.

But Deshler athletic director Patrick Smith said numerous football players have had to miss practice lately after being exposed to family members or other people who tested positive for COVID-19.

If players have to miss too many practices, they may fall short of practicing enough during the acclimation period to be able to play in early games without the season being delayed.

“We don't want to go out unprepared to play and we don't want to put any kid at risk that we don't have to when it comes to COVID-19,” Smith said.

The last year Deshler and Russellville didn't play each other in football was 1987, according to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society.

Florence and Muscle Shoals have played eight of the last 10 seasons. Muscle Shoals has won the last five meetings.

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