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Weeknight games means less sleep, long days ahead for SETX teams

September 20, 2017 GMT

Jalen Wells’ day will start at 5:30 this morning and won’t end till he puts his head on a pillow after midnight.

Six hours later, he’ll be in the Ozen High School fieldhouse going through a post-game checkup routine.

The hectic schedule - and noticeable lack of sack time - is a result of the compressed District 22-5A football schedule necessitated by Tropical Storm Harvey.

For the next three weeks, district games will be played on weeknights, which will test players’ physical and mental ability to handle the rigors of athletics, academics and teenage life.

“I feel like I’m going to end up falling asleep during my first period class (on Thursday),” Wells said. “It’s going to be very difficult.”

First period at Ozen starts at 7:20 a.m. Tonight’s road game against Baytown Lee will start at 7 p.m.

In that time, Wells and his teammates will spend eight hours in classes, an hour driving to Baytown and three preparing for the game.

When Wells finally gets home about midnight, he plans to go straight to sleep and hope he can answer his 5:30 a.m. wake-up call on Thursday.

He doesn’t know when he’ll have time to do his homework, and a good night’s sleep is out of the question, but Ozen coach Ed Taylor expects his players in class Thursday.

“It’ll be a challenge for everybody no doubt,” Taylor said. “But our players are expected to be role models and they’re not going to get any free passes, even for a situation like this.”

Dr. William Burkes, Medical Director of the Texas Sleep Clinic and Director of the Sleep Lab at Beaumont’s Baptist Hospital, said it’s a fair expectation that players will be at a disadvantage during the three weeks of mid-week games.

Burkes said it’s healthy for teenagers to get about eight hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Ozen, Nederland, Lumberton and Port Neches-Groves all play on the road against the two non-Southeast Texas teams in the district - Baytown Lee and Livingston - during the three-week period.

Those road games will provide the most challenges because of the travel time.

“Processes like concentration, reaction time and memory processing will be measurably affected for players who will only be able to sleep a few hours the night of a game,” Burkes said.

Nederland junior Noah Lewis sleeps between 8 and 9 hours a night, but the Bulldogs play 11/2 hours away today against Livingston.

Lewis expects to get about six hours of sleep tonight.

“I probably won’t be too awake Thursday,” Lewis said. “But I’ll do my best to stay attentive.”

On the up side, Burkes said, teenagers are the most resilient age group in terms of recovering from a poor night’s sleep.

Nederland coach Monte Barrow has put it on his players to make sure they handle themselves responsibly on game days and the days after.

“It’s going to be a difficult three weeks for every team,” Barrow said. “We had kids going from practice to ripping up flooded homes then back to practice a couple weeks ago, so I’m hoping they’ll be able to handle this the best way possible.”