HIDALGO — As private and public high schools and school districts throughout the Rio Grande Valley and parts of South Texas continue complex and ongoing discussions about how, if or when to play fall sports amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of South football coaches is stepping up.

Coaches, administrators and district officials representing each team in District 16-4A DI — Grulla, Hidalgo, Kingsville King, La Feria and Zapata — are seeking to get the message out that their administrations, parents and student-athletes want to play and that they’re preparing to do so.

The aim of these Class 4A coaches, athletic directors and school officials: to inform their respective school and local communities that they all are preparing to play football as scheduled this fall.

“We’ve been Zooming, trying to come up with a plan. Everybody in our district is kind of in the same boat. I thought Kingsville (King) was getting to work out since they’re right by Corpus Christi, but they’re not,” Hidalgo athletic director and head football coach Monty Stumbaugh said.

“I think La Feria had maybe one or two weeks with their kids (over the summer), and Zapata, I think, had about two weeks with their kids. Grulla and ourselves, though, we haven’t seen our kids. I believe Kingsville got in a little bit (of summer strength and conditioning), but then they got shut down.

“As head football coaches we will always be committed to play football,” Zapata athletic director and head football coach Joel Lopez said in a Twitter statement. “However, there are many things to take into consideration in the midst of this pandemic. We will be waiting for a direction from our superintendent of schools (Carlos M. Gonzalez, Jr.).

“Nothing will replace the safety of our community, most especially our children.”

The news comes on the heels of what’s been a frenetic and hectic week across the Rio Grande Valley high school sports landscape.

On Monday, The Monitor reported that the three La Joya ISD high schools — Juarez-Lincoln, La Joya High and Palmview — had informed their respective district executive committees that they won’t participate in fall sports competition as scheduled this year because of a vote to further delay the start of in-person class instruction and return to on-campus athletic practices and other extracurricular activities.

Since that decision was made in La Joya, coaches and school officials from districts from virtually every corner of the RGV have told The Monitor that they plan to press ahead with fall sports as scheduled under the UIL’s amended athletic calendar.

Few, however, have been able to express these sentiments publicly. Lopez and Stumbaugh are boldly going on the record, however, during a time when several school districts across the Rio Grande Valley are effectively muzzling coaches and other employees, forbidding them from speaking to The Monitor, RGVSports.com or any local journalists regardless of the subject matter.

Multiple RGV fall sports coaches told The Monitor that their districts have instructed them not to speak publicly about practically anything, including their personal experiences contracting and recovering from the novel coronavirus.

For athletic directors and coaches like Lopez and Stumbaugh, they felt it was time to speak publicly to keep parents and student-athletes in their respective communities informed of what’s going on around them.

“No one is more supportive of our athletics than our superintendent and school board members of our school district,” Lopez said in a Twitter statement. “We will play when we agree it is safe. Ultimately, the safety of our student-athletes, coaches and their families is and will always remain in the forefront.”

Athletic directors, football coaches and superintendents from each of those school districts will meet Sept. 2 to discuss how to proceed with their seasons.

Among items on the agenda: how to coordinate similar health and safety policies for five high schools spread across five different counties?

“We’re going to go over the plan and see if we can at least get our district games for football. But I’m also hoping that our volleyball district, which is all down here, can get started in time. They’ll get all their district games in. Cross-country will be able to run some meets and we’ll meet all the district certification dates,” Stumbaugh said.

“That’s the plan, but we’re kind of just waiting around right now to see what we’re going to do, so we’re meeting next week and we’ll know yay or nay I guess for … moving forward or whether we’ll have to wait some more. That’s kind of where we are with our district right now.”

Furthermore, the six-school Valley district for volleyball and cross-country (District 32-4A) that includes Grulla, Hidalgo, La Feria, Port Isabel, Raymondville and Rio Hondo will also meet next week to discuss how to prepare for their seasons too.

Athletic directors and volleyball coaches throughout the district are planning to open regular season play Oct. 3, which would give each school one or two weeks of warmup time.

Grulla, Hidalgo, La Feria and Port Isabel can get back to on-campus practices in each of these sports as early as Sept. 28 per existing Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr county public health orders.

A similar Willacy County public health order will currently allow Raymondville and Rio Hondo to resume their on-campus practices as early as Sept. 21.

Email: amcculloch@themonitor.com

Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch