This is going to be a continuing series on this site until a majority of California high school football teams are practicing and getting ready for their first games. Most of the bigger school districts in the state have yet to officially open, but some have with full distance learning via Zoom and Google applications. A lot of teams are going to resume organized workouts, knowing there’s several months still to go before official practices. We have statewide updates on that, more about top-rated recruits who have said they will be leaving in January or earlier and more about active COVID-19 cases hitting certain programs.
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An announcement last week by State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond about tech giants Apple and T-Mobile for a program to help connect as many as one million students in the state for distance learning with their teachers contained an additional amazing stat: “The COVID-19 pandemic forced an estimated 97 percent of California’s 6.2 million students to resume their school year in distance learning.”
Of the state’s five largest school districts — Los Angeles Unified, San Diego Unified, Fresno Unified, Long Beach Unified and Elk Grove Unified — there are none that had begun its 2020-21 school year with a first day of school. Elk Grove does have a track of schools that are year-round and began in July, but its major track is starting next week (August 17). L.A. Unified (August 18) and Fresno (August 17) also will be next week while San Diego (Aug. 31) and Long Beach (Sept. 1) still have more than two weeks to go.
Despite those dates for those five districts, many others have begun. Stockton Unified, for example, already is in its second week of distance learning and the scuttlebutt among the teachers is that most of them expect to be doing distance learning until at least the Christmas holiday two-week break. It may need to be a couple of weeks earlier than that, however, if football practices can be held at schools in which its students are still not physically in classrooms on their campuses.
Coaches in the L.A. Unified School District have not been able to work with their athletes after school or in separate workouts at all since the pandemic began. All facilities in the district also have been closed. Eric Sondheimer of the L.A. Times says that one of first things to look for in that district is whether the independent charter schools begin to do those workouts. Those schools don’t have to adhere to the district’s guidelines of the other schools.
Teams Working Out In Groups Okayed By State
According to new, updated guidelines issued last week by the California Department of Public Health, schools could organize training activities for its athletes provided that they follow all of the rules.
Those guidelines includes six feet of distancing between each athlete and that the workouts involve small groups. Football teams throughout the state had been doing those types of activities in June and in early July until all of the case numbers from the pandemic began to dramatically rise and had to be shut down.
On Tuesday of this week, the Orange County Register reported that Los Alamitos High had become the first school in that county to go back to modified workouts this week. Other school districts in the county seemed to be waiting until next week.
Northern Section small schools
end fall football efforts
Those revised guidelines from the state last week also continued to ban all tournaments, events or competitions for the foreseeable future, including within those rural counties in which its coronavirus case numbers are in places that continue to not be on the watch list.
When the CIF announced on July 20 that it was pushing back its fall sports calendar (including football) into January, the CIF Northern Section indicated it would leave it open for its own 73 member schools to perhaps come up with a schedule that would make it possible to have football in the fall.
The largest schools in the section in the Eastern Athletic League (Redding and Chico) figured it out rather quickly that they couldn’t do it and would go along with the CIF state schedule. There were some smaller schools, particularly in the more mountainous part of the section where the snow and cold of January make having football games there almost impossible, that were continuing to look for alternatives. It was confirmed last week by the Shasta County Sports website that those plans can’t happen, either, and that now it is known that there will be no fall football anywhere in the state.
“We’re done,” Fall River of McArthur head coach Todd Sloat told the website. “I just don’t see us being able to do it.”
Top Player Decisions: La Habra QB heading to Georgia
Each one of these decisions by current football seniors holding Division I college commitments is unique to that player with different circumstances, different family situations and different player development/team considerations.
With schools not even in session yet in many places, decisions about whether to stay for a senior season in January or leave in mid-semester as an early graduate and then head to college are still mostly unreported and probably undecided. Some also may now change their minds back to high school after thinking they would leave since more and more colleges are postponing fall seasons to January (and thus no spring football in 2021).
As some of them are coming into focus, however, there will be a certain type of player probably more inclined to leave than stay. Will be it be those more toward the top of the Hot 100 Class of 2021 player rankings, more from the middle on upward or maybe it will end up being almost all of them?
The major move from last week was from QB Jake Garcia, a USC commit who was scheduled to play at La Habra this fall. Garcia announced he’d be playing this fall, but would be trying to do that at Valdosta High in Valdosta, Ga. That’s in a state that obviously hasn’t shut down its fall football, but even in places (mostly with Republican governors) that are going to try as hard as possible to get in a season it may not happen there. It’s just too much of an unknown whether positive cases will arise or not and what might happen to a team’s season if it is struck by a positive case (or more). If Garcia is successful in moving to Georgia and playing at Valdosta, he’d be playing for the school with the most wins of any high school football team in national history.
Another QB who announced he isn’t going to play for his high school in January was Peter Costelli of Mission Viejo. Costelli, committed to the University of Utah, then changed his mind this week to stay for his senior season after the Pac-12 postponed its season to January. He started as a sophomore at Santa Margarita and before that was at St. John Bosco of Bellflower. For the Diablos last season, Costelli led a group that went 12-1 and was considered the Public School State Team of the Year.
Players going outside of the state in the hunt for a fall football season are not limited to the major recruits, either. San Luis Obispo WR/DB Landon Nelson has moved to Iowa and will play at Valley High of West Des Moines. It’s still be determined whether San Luis Obispo’s two Hot 100 state recruits — Thomas Cole (6-7, 275) and Christian Jones (6-9, 350) who have committed to UCLA and San Diego State, respectively — will be staying in January or leaving early. Newport Harbor of Newport Beach QB Cole Lavin also is leaving, which for him will be to a school in Utah.
In looking over the top projected teams in the state, Mater Dei of Santa Ana (12-1 last season and CIF Open Division state champs in 2017 and 2018) already knows it will be losing at least three players to early graduations. Defensive back Jaylin Davies, an LSU commit, made his intentions known within a few days of the CIF state announcement. Last week, the Orange County Register reported that wide receiver Cristian Dixon (Michigan) and center George Miki-Han (Colorado State) also would be leaving early. It’s not known, however, whether the recent developments at Colorado State (suspending its football program) might change things for Miki-Han and other Rams’ recruits.
As mentioned above, it’s a different case for each one of these young men.
More COVID-19 Statewide Updates
*As we were writing up this post, it was announced by the Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences that it wouldn’t be playing any fall sports until January 2021. That matched a decision from last week by the Big Sky Conference (Sacramento State, UC Davis, etc.) and others earlier. There now won’t be football this fall for sure in California for the colleges, JCs and high schools. Spring football at those colleges also now won’t be happening, either, which likely will impact a lot of those decisions being made by seniors holding D1 college commitments and thinking about leaving high school early.
*Head coach Pat Harlow from JSerra of San Juan Capistrano is the first football coach we know of from a prominent school in the state to confirm having the coronavirus. Harlow said that last week in an article in the Orange County Register. Another JSerra assistant coach also contracted the virus, but Harlow said both have since recovered. He indicated he became ill following a Father’s Day trip to Arizona.
*Napa High principal Monica Ready sent an email to parents of football players at that school last week that at least one individual taking part in football workouts had tested positive for COVID-19. A spokesperson for the Napa Valley Unified School District then later told the Napa Valley Register that it was actually two people. The spokesperson added that all protocols were followed, there were no additional positive tests and that the workouts ended as scheduled on July 24.
*On a brighter note coming out of Napa, Grizzlies’ tight end Brock Bowers on Monday committed to Georgia of the Southeastern Conference. Bowers has continued to rise on all of the national recruiting charts and is one of the top prospects in the state. At Georgia, Bowers will be joining a roster that added recent Northern California standout running back Kendall Milton from Buchanan of Clovis.
Mark Tennis is the editor and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports