Joe T. Robinson Coach Todd Eskola (center), shown here in 2018, said the decision to move the Senators’ season opener against Pulaski Academy from today to Friday was made as the result of “a very fast-moving situation.”
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/John Sykes Jr.)

Hurricane Laura has made an impact on the first day of the state’s high school football schedule.

Two games — Joe T. Robinson at Pulaski Academy and Jonesboro at Little Rock Catholic — have been moved from today to Friday because of expected heavy rain.

The Jonesboro-Little Rock Catholic game will be played at 5 p.m. Friday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Robinson-Pulaski Academy was rescheduled for 7 p.m Friday at Joe B. Hatcher Stadium in Little Rock. The game will be televised on KARZ-TV in Little Rock, Pulaski Academy Coach Kevin Kelley confirmed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. KARZ was scheduled to televise the game tonight.

The Pulaski County Special School District is dismissing all of its high schools — Robinson, Maumelle, Mills and Sylvan Hills — at 1 p.m. today. PCSSD’s policy is when schools are either canceled or dismissed early, no athletic events can be held on or off campus. The district made the announcement about 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Robinson Coach Todd Eskola said he supported his administration’s decision.

“Our district wanted to err on the side of caution,” Eskola said. “It was going to be a stadium full of people. But we’re happy that Pulaski Academy and Coach Kelley were able to accommodate us [for Friday].”

Eskola said he learned about the decision at 7 p.m. Wednesday. He then got on the phone with Kelley to discuss rescheduling options.

By 9 p.m. Wednesday, both schools agreed to play the game Friday.

“It was a very fast-moving situation,” Eskola said.

Kelley said the anticipation has been building for the game that features two of last year’s state champions in Pulaski Academy (Class 5A) and Robinson (Class 4A).

“It’s like you’re an 8-year-old on Christmas morning ready to open up your presents,” Kelley said. “We’ve got two pretty good football teams here.”

Hurricane Laura has been called a Category 4 hurricane by the National Weather Service. The hurricane is expected to reach Arkansas today after hitting parts of Louisiana and Texas. Heavy rain, flash flooding, strong winds and a few small tornadoes are forecast in the state.

Little Rock Catholic Principal Steve Straessle said that the Jonesboro-Catholic postponement was made because of Jonesboro having to travel in dangerous conditions, as well as a chance of lightning delays and potentially unsafe conditions for sheltering at War Memorial Stadium during a coronavirus pandemic.

Straessle said the War Memorial Stadium staff approved the move, even though they’ll have less than 24 hours to get the stadium ready for Saturday’s Salt Bowl between Bryant and Benton.

But the safety of the Jonesboro football program was too important to Straessle.

“They could have come down here and played, but then there would be three delays possibly,” Straessle said. “They just said we’d rather come back on Friday than put kids on a bus Thursday.”

The only game that is scheduled to take place today is the longtime rivalry between Fort Smith Southside and Fort Smith Northside. Fort Smith Public Schools Superintendent Michael Beaumont told the Democrat-Gazette that the game was still on for today.

Also, Friday’s game between Valley View and Ozark was called off because of possible unsafe travel conditions.

Ozark Coach Jeremie Burns said Valley View Athletic Director Tommy Fowler and the school’s transportation department notified Ozark on Wednesday afternoon that the Blazers would not travel Friday.

It’s the second time this month that Ozark has had its season-opening opponent decide not to play. Clarksville announced Aug. 20 that it was rescheduling its game against Ozark to Sept. 11 after a football player and two coaches tested positive for covid-19.

Instead, the Hillbillies will get ready for their first game Sept. 4 against Booneville.

“It’s a day-to-day, week-to-week thing,” Burns said. “We’ll have to adjust.”

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