By Mike LaBella firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — HAVERHILL — First, the threat of the EEE virus was getting in the way of Haverhill High football games.
Now, SAT testing is forcing further juggling of the Hillie gridiron schedule, but officials said this weekend’s game will be played — despite mosquitoes and hours of tests for college-bound students.
Due to the threat of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Haverhill postponed Friday night’s football game, originally scheduled under the lights at Trinity Stadium, to Saturday afternoon.
The Hillie-Chelmsford game will be at 3:30 p.m. Haverhill High Athletic Director Tom O’Brien said Saturday games are usually held at 1 p.m., but there will be a delay because SAT testing is taking place that morning.
“Normally we’d start a Saturday game at 1, but the tests don’t get out until 1, so we need to give Chelmsford more time to get here,” O’Brien said. “With 60 student athletes on our varsity team, it affects a lot of our families and those in Chelmsford, where football is huge and they tend to follow their team around.’’
Haverhill High’s fan following is also strong this year due to the team’s early-season success. The Hillies have three wins and one loss, following several losing seasons.
As of Sept. 21, Haverhill cancelled all outdoor public recreational activities on city property between dusk and dawn after state health officials notified the city’s Board of Health that Amesbury, Merrimac and Haverhill were all raised to a critical risk level for EEE. Officials said the risk from mosquitoes carrying the disease is especially high between dusk and dawn. EEE can cause a serious and sometimes-fatal brain infection.
Mayor James Fiorentini said that after conferring with Health Board Chairman Dr. Carl Rosenbloom, as well as school and Recreation Department officials, the city decided to postpone and reschedule activities until the first hard frost hits.
As a result of the ban, O’Brien made a total of 16 Haverhill High scheduling changes, including: Boys and girls junior varsity and varsity soccer; freshman, junior varsity and varsity field hockey; and varsity football. Instead of night games at Trinity Stadium, most of the games are being held in the afternoon at the athletic field at Haverhill High.
EEE can bring varying levels sickness and even death to humans. An elderly Georgetown man has died from the disease.
The 5:30 p.m. deadline for outdoor events is hurting the city’s youth soccer teams. Recreation Director Vincent Ouellette said Haverhill PAL Soccer continues to hold games on Saturdays, although some coaches have opted not to hold practices, which previously were held in the early evening.
“They know they have to be off the field at a certain time, so some coaches have opted not to have practices at all,” Ouellette said.
He said city sports fields have to be vacated by sunset and no activities are being allowed prior to sunrise. All leagues that have been issued permits by the Recreation Department were notified of the ban, he said.
The ban affects the over-45 softball league, which was given the option of playing on Sundays, Ouellette said. The Recreation Department Men’s Softball League, which was holding games in the evening, have been holding games on weekend days. Ouellette said the ban will be in effect until the first hard frost.
O’Brien said Georgetown High rented Trinity Stadium for a football game last Saturday and plans to hold additional games there until the EEE ban is lifted in that town. On Sept. 18, the Georgetown Board of Health issued on order banning all outdoor activities on town property between 3 p.m. and 9 a.m. The ban was put into effect after state public health officials confirmed that the Georgetown man in his 70s was diagnosed with EEE. He has since died.
Officials at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School said they are adhering to the Haverhill Board of Health’s ruling and are not allowing outdoor sporting events to continue at the school past 5:30 p.m.
Admission to Saturday’s Haverhill High football game is $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. The annual Haverhill Touchdown Club cookout starts at 2:45 p.m. and will be held in the east end zone of Trinity Stadium.