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Football Recruits Mull Early Enrollment After HS Season Delay

With the NCHSAA delaying football until February because of the coroanvirus pandemic, two months after the NCAA's early signing period, many college-bound prospects are likely to start their college careers early rather than playing their senior season

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association on Wednesday pushed back the start of its football season until February in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In doing so, it effectively ended the prep careers of many college-bound prospects who are opting to enroll early rather than playing their delayed senior season.

Among them is Hough High School cornerback Mario Love Jr., one of nine in-state recruits committed to NC State’s Class of 2021.

Love announced his intention with an impassioned social media post in which he lamented that “all good journeys come to and end,” he expressed a sentiment echoed my many others facing a similar decision.

“I’m hurt but I still have goals and dreams to chase,” Love told SI’s All-Wolfpack.. “I love my coaches and teammates to death and they are with me on this decision.”

The NCHSAA had originally pushed back the start of its athletic year until Sept. 1.

But with the state still under Phase 2 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening plan, which among other things limits public gatherings to 25 or fewer participants, and several counties opting for remote classes this fall, the NCHSAA decided to push back the season until spring.

The new schedule features a shortened regular season of just seven games, beginning on Feb. 26 and ending by April 9.

With the NCAA’s early signing period for football set to begin on Dec. 16, the new dates have put college-bound seniors into a difficult choice -- play their senior season, risking an injury that could carry over into the following fall or graduate early and get a head start with their college program.

“It’s crazy knowing that the season got pushed back and that I have to make a decision if I want to play early or stay,” offensive tackle Jaleel Davis of Richmond High School in Rockingham. “As of right now I’m really stuck in the middle. It’s really a hard decision to make.”

It’s one brothers Travali Price and Jayden Tate of North Lincoln High School aren’t taking lightly.

“I will have to sit down with my family later and make a decision on what is best for us,” said defensive end Price, a Sports Illustrated All-American candidate, adding that he is “very disappointed and they cut the season in half.”

“It's very frustrating to say the least,” added Tate, a nose tackle and long snapper.

As frustrated as wide receiver Julian Gray of Hopewell High School in Huntersville is about the less-than-ideal situation, it's a reality he can't control. And since there's no guarantee the season will be played, even in the spring, he's decided to opt out of his senior season and move on to the next stage of his career.

"I feel sad, of course," he said. "I would have love to play my senior year with my team, but things happen and I’m moving on to bigger and better."

Wide receiver Micah Crowell of East Forsyth High School has also indicated on his Instagram account that he plans to enroll at State early.

The Wolfpack's other committed 2021 football recruits from North Carolina are safety Sean Brown, Love's Hough High teammate and wide receiver Jakolbe Baldwin, Davis' Richmond High teammate.

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