High school football gets underway with Kickoff Classic matchup between Deerfield Beach and Atlantic. Volleyball season is still on hold amid a work stoppage

DELRAY BEACH — High school football is officially back with five Kickoff Classic games taking place across Palm Beach County on Thursday and a dozen or so set for Friday.


These preseason games were in jeopardy earlier this week amid a work stoppage and negotiations between the East Coast Football Officials Association and the Palm Beach County school district regarding officials’ pay.


Wednesday afternoon, the ECFOA received a $10 increase to their travel wage and agreed to end their work stoppage, setting the stage for a slate of preseason games that included matchups between Deerfield Beach and Atlantic, Jupiter Christian and St. Andrew’s, and Monarch and John I. Leonard.


For the officials, the return to normalcy was a welcome change.


"Today was a great day, it just felt good to relax and get prepared for a football game tonight," said Travelle Northern, president of the East Coast Football Officials Association. "It was really exciting doing all the things that we normally do."


"I’m breathing a sigh of relief."


The marquee matchup on Thursday night was a game between Class 8A state semifinalist Deerfield Beach and Atlantic, who went undefeated in the regular season last year.


Deerfield Beach traveled to Delray, bringing with them several Division I-bound players including Boca Raton transfer and Tulane commit Michael Pratt, FSU commit Jaylan Knighton and Georgia Tech commit Bryce Gowdy.


Deerfield Beach left 12-10 losers as Atlantic opened up 2019 with a big win, albeit in preseason.


Pratt did not play in Thursday’s game while nursing an abductor injury that will sideline him for a couple weeks.


Though the preseason contests won’t count toward team’s regular-season records, they serve as an opportunity for players to add to their film.


"I think just to go against another opponent is good," said Atlantic head coach TJ Jackson. "To get the kids to go against someone and see what we have, and we’ll go from there."


Earlier this week, it looked like these preseason contests would be a casualty of the refs’ fight for higher pay. Those officials were just as glad as the coaches and players that such an outcome was avoided.


"We know that these student-athletes have been preparing all summer and we support them and want to make sure that they have the opportunity to come and show their talent," said Northern.


While football avoided disaster with the officials association and the district coming to an agreement ahead of preseason games, volleyball has not been as lucky.


Several highly-anticipated preseason matches have been canceled as pay negotiations between the East Coast Volleyball Officials Association and the district continue. Officials did oversee Thursday’s four-team classic at Benjamin involving the hosts, Palm Beach Gardens, Dwyer and Suncoast, according to the district.


Classics at Spanish River and Boca Raton were canceled as officials did not work those matches. Matches Tuesday and Wednesday were also canceled.


The referees want a $15 per-game pay raise to $60, rates that are similar to what officials receive in Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama, according to ECVOA president Kevin Finneran.


Finneran said the school district offered a $5 per-game raise, an increase from an original offer of $3.50. Both offers were rejected.


In a news release Thursday, the school district said the officials had rejected an increase of $7 and then $10 in travel pay.


Finneran told the Palm Beach Post from the beginning the officials want a per-game raise, not a raise in travel pay. In the release, the district said "ECVOA initially stated, verbally, that it would accept a $10 travel increase."


"FHSAA is working with the school district in an attempt to attract officials from other areas to officiate volleyball games in Palm Beach County," the district said in the news release. "The district remains optimistic that ECVOA will reconsider the $10 offer for this school year, and will work together with FHSAA toward an increased game fee for next year."


rdipentima@pbpost.com