The North Jackson football team’s season opener with an out-of-state opponent is back on.

The Chiefs’ game at Whitwell (Tennessee), scheduled for Aug. 28, is a go after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order allowing high school football to begin play before the expiration Tennessee’s current COVID-19 (coronavirus) related health order.

The order expires Aug. 29. When issued, it put North Jackson’s game with Whitwell in doubt. The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association passed a new start date for mid-September last week but held out hope that the governor would exempt high school football from the order and allow the sport to return to its original schedule. That happened on Tuesday.

“It’s on,” North Jackson head football coach Chandler Tygard said of the game. “I hope it stays on.”

Tygard said North Jackson and Rogers, which also had a Tennessee team on its schedule, had an agreement in place to play if high school football season in Tennessee remained delayed. Rogers High School, located in Greenhill in Lauderdale County, was scheduled to open its season against Richland (Tennessee). 

If Tennessee’s high school football season were to be delayed again, North Jackson and Rogers would play against one another at Rogers in Week 0 on Aug. 21, Tygard said.

“We’d actually been working on Rogers stuff for a week,” Tygard said. “With Tennessee coming back (on schedule), it’s better for both of us to play those (Tennessee) teams.”

Whitwell won the 2018 TSSAA Class 1A state championship. The Tigers went 3-9 last season, but did upset an undefeated Monteray team in the first round of the Tennessee state playoffs.

The game between North Jackson and Whitwell is the first between the programs. Whitwell, however, was a frequently played opponent of Bridgeport and Stevenson high schools before the consolidated to form North Jackson High School in 1988. Whitwell played Stevenson 35 times and played Bridgeport 34 times, according to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society.

“I think a bunch of people are going to be there. It’s the season opener, and the teams have never played,” Tygard said. “It’s going to have some interest. Our people are going to be excited. It’s good for both schools.”

The game is a one-year deal — Alabama and Tennessee teams are on different scheduling year cycles — and North Jackson is receiving 40 percent of the gate.

“I wanted to get one of those teams in the Tennessee area to play us, so it’s a good start to get that going,” Tygard said. “I’d like to have one of those games a year. It’s would be fun (for the communities).”

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