By Nick Curcuru
---- — It has been an athletic director’s nightmare.
With a horse in Essex testing positive for Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) on Friday, all four Cape Ann communities have issued an outdoors activity ban starting at 5 p.m. And an outdoor ban beginning at 5 p.m. means that Gloucester Athletic Director Kim Patience, Rockport AD Mary Ryan and Manchester Essex AD Kelly Porcaro have had to scramble to change game times as the ban will remain in place until the season’s first hard frost.
With most games slated to start in the 4 p.m. range, and several others from all three Cape Ann schools taking place at night, keeping the game times the same was not an option.
“It’s not a fun situation to be under, but we all certainly understand the ramifications of the situation,” Patience said. “In most cases we have just moved the start times up — trying to do 3 p.m. or 3:15 starts, if possible.”
Games beginning in the 3 to 3:15 p.m. range seem to be the norm as all of Gloucester’s scheduled home games are slated to begin no later than 3:15 p.m. this week. Gloucester’s away games are not affected, as Gloucester is the only city or town in the Northeastern Conference that has a mosquito-related outdoor activities ban. Tonight’s boys and girls soccer matches, slated to start at 7 p.m. and 5 p.m. respectively in Salem, have not changed nor has Gloucester’s field hockey game at Danvers starting at 4 p.m.
This afternoon’s home cross country meet against Winthrop at Ravenswood Park, however, had been bumped up to 3:15 p.m.
While away games are not affected for Gloucester, the opposite is true for Rockport and Manchester Essex, as 75 percent of schools in the Cape Ann League have similar outdoor activities bans.
“We had an emergency meeting for Cape Ann League athletic directors last week to discuss the situation,” Ryan said. “At the time, only 50 percent of the schools had an outdoor ban, but now 75 percent of the schools in the league have one.
“We’ve been trying to move every game scheduled at 4 or 6 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.,” she added, “but it takes a lot of communication between schools because it would call for some teams to be released from school early. We have moved some games up in time for this week, but I anticipate that we will have to move some dates.”
This week all soccer and field hockey games at Rockport and Manchester Essex, home and away, are scheduled at 3:15 p.m., with the exception of a Rockport golf match and a Manchester Essex field hockey game being played in Lynnfield, a community with no outdoor ban.
According to Ryan, golf is the toughest one to schedule because it is the most time consuming. Rockport has a pair of 3 p.m. golf matches this week on Tuesday and Thursday in areas affected by the outdoor ban. Ryan says those matches will go with a shotgun start where groups of players tee off simultaneously from different holes.
The outdoor ban is also affecting Friday night football games. Friday’s matchup between Manchester Essex and Austin Prep at Hyland field has been moved from 7 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday’s game at Hyland Field between Gloucester and Masconomet will still be played at 2 p.m.
The Fishermen do not have a night game in an affected area scheduled until Oct., 27, when Beverly comes to Hyland Field for a 7 p.m. game and at the moment that time still stands.
Manchester Essex’s Oct. 12 meeting with Northeast Regional has been moved to 2 p.m. at Hyland Field according to the team’s schedule. The Hornets’ Oct. 26 meeting with North Reading, slated for 7 p.m. at Hyland Field, is still scheduled at 7 p.m. at the moment.
Practice times must also change with the outdoor ban as teams must be off the fields at 5 p.m. Patience says that soccer, field hockey and cross country teams will have no problems practicing from 3 to 5 p.m. while the football team, which usually practices longer, is scheduled to practice in the field house after 5 p.m.
The Manchester Essex boys’ soccer team, on the other hand, has scheduled some indoor practices at Danvers Indoor Sports Arena.
Junior varsity games, which are usually played directly after the varsity games when it comes to soccer and field hockey, also have to adapt as Ryan says she is considering moving some to different venues to be played at the same time as varsity games.
“We are actively trying to work things out,” Ryan said. “All it takes is one cancellation to cause a trickle down effect.”
To keep track of game times and potential changes see schedulestar.com for Gloucester and Manchester Essex, and hssports.net for Rockport, where game dates and times are all up to date.
Nick Curcuru can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3444, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.