The Eastern equine encephalitis virus has come to the River Rival Region, and the high school sports scene is making moves to accommodate it.
Newburyport, Amesbury, Salisbury, Newbury, West Newbury and Merrimac have all placed a ban on any outdoor activities on public properties over varying degrees from 5 p.m. until 9 a.m. each day until further notice. That means that all the local school sports teams are affected both with games and practices just three weeks into the season and with no end in sight until the first overnight killing frost arrives.
Friday night football is on hold indefinitely, as no local team will be hosting a night game until at least the first frost. This week’s Amesbury vs. Hamilton-Wenham game, orginally scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m., will be played Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. The Pentucket vs. Ipswich game scheduled for Friday night will be played Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
“This kids’ health is more important than anything else,” says Newburyport golf coach Steve Malenfant. “We’d rather be safe than sorry.”
Other big games have already been rescheduled, including the annual ALS Cup soccer matches between Newburyport and Pentucket. Originally scheduled for last Friday night, those games were postponed, and the Triton/Ipswich football game was moved from the typical Friday night slot to Saturday morning.
In Georgetown, which has already seen the death of a horse from EEE last month, the ban is even more severe, prohibiting activity on school grounds from 3 p.m. to 9 a.m. The ban has also been going on since preseason. First-year boys soccer coach Matt Laut frankly knows no other way to do things right now.
“None of the coaches are happy,” confesses Laut. “But we’re all in the same boat, and we know that being down about it isn’t going to do us any good. If we start complaining, the players are going to see that, and it will break down everyone else’s morale. As long as the players stay positive, that’s the biggest thing.”