Prestonwood vs. John Paul

The Prestonwood Christian and John Paul II football teams will get to play their entire district schedule after the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools announced an amendment to its fall sports schedule.

Less than one week after unveiling its plans for fall sports, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools announced a tweak to its football schedule that would add two more games to the regular season.

On Thursday, TAPPS released an update allowing football teams to play an eight-game regular season instead of the six games in the athletics body’s initial announcement on July 17. 

Under the new format, teams can play regular-season games on Sept. 24-26 — one week earlier than the initial start date for Oct. 1-3.

The revision helps teams like Prestonwood Christian and John Paul II, who will play in an eight-team district this season. Only able to play six of its seven district games under TAPPS’ original format, the Lions and Cardinals can now play their entire conference schedule.

“That’s something we were talking about. TAPPS had a date built in for a scrimmage and we were talking about how it would be great if that was a game instead,” said Chris Cunningham, Prestonwood head football coach. “That way, we’d have our entire district schedule played. As it was, we would only get six of the seven played and we’re so close to being able to play a full district schedule. It’s not too difficult of a fix — just playing a game instead of a scrimmage.”

In addition to moving up the start date for the regular season, TAPPS is extending the end of the regular season by one week to Nov. 10-12 as well. The state football championship games are also being moved, shifting from Dec. 3-5 to Dec. 10-12.

“At that point, I think it was a mix of being happy we’re having football season but you’re bummed because you’re missing out on some games,” Cunningham said. “When the UIL came out with their deal, a lot of the conversation was trying to see if there was a way we could get more games into this thing and get those played.”

Just a few days after TAPPS’ announcement, which delayed the start of football season until the week of Sept. 28, the UIL took a different course of action on Tuesday when it split the timelines for its two largest classifications, 5A and 6A, and its four smallest, 1A-4A. The smaller classifications will remain on schedule and start their seasons Aug. 27-29, while 5A and 6A won’t begin Week One until Sept. 24-26.

Private schools like Prestonwood and John Paul awaited the UIL’s verdict to see what ramifications it would have on their own schedules. The Cardinals had locked in a road game against 5A program Lovejoy for its season opener on Aug. 28 and the Lions were set to visit six-time state champion Highland Park on Sept. 21.

"We were excited about the Highland Park opportunity and it doesn’t look like that’s going to work out,” Cunningham said. “What the UIL came out with was so different from what we have that it would be tough for us to find a common date.”

Like their fellow coaches in the UIL, a shift in the fall sports schedule brought upon more acclimation for private school programs. Cunningham noted that in addition to revising his team’s schedule, there has also been a focus on how to handle workouts during August until they’re able to practice in pads on Sept. 11. For the Lions, their target date is Aug. 19 when students begin classes on campus. 

“Once we start school, we’ll probably get into what a normal day would look like during football season,” Cunningham said. “It’s a little bit different because you were already in the pads and already having a scrimmage under our belts before starting school … that’ll be the only difference is that we won’t be able to be in pads yet. We’ve still got a couple weeks before that happens.”

Once practice begin, teams can play a scrimmage between Sept. 17-19 before diving into a truncated regular season that won’t afford much time before beginning district play. After two seasons of playing just a four-game district schedule, Prestonwood and John Paul are back in an eight-team conference that includes defending state champion Parish Episcopal, as well as Fort Worth All Saints, Bishop Lynch, Argyle Liberty Christian, Midland Christian and Fort Worth Nolan.

“That’s tough. Obviously, it changes your approach. I think every staff and coach out there, you’re normally on a timeline as far as personnel decisions and where you’d like to be between your scrimmages and your non-district games and then all the way up to your district games,” Cunningham said. “All of that changes now. Boom, we’ll already be in district right away and that’s a whole new approach, but by now people should be used to change or adjusting or finding a different way to get things done.”

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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