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. Those first practices are scheduled for roughly one month from now. As COVID-19 cases and positivity rates are again trending upward, we highlight this update with a list of 16 comments from coaches around the state who were asked their opinion about starting to play real games in January.
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QUESTIONNAIRES WENT OUT TO APPROXIMATELY 250 HEAD COACHES FROM AROUND THE STATE. ANY SCHOOL OR AUTHORIZED SCHOOL REPRESENTATIVE THAT MAY NOT HAVE RECEIVED ONE IS WELCOME AND ENCOURAGED TO FILL ONE OUT. IT’S ALSO A GREAT WAY TO TELL US ABOUT TOP PLAYERS AND TEAMS. TO ACCESS THE FORM, CLICK HERE.
With much of the nation gripped on state-by-state election maps colored in red or blue, fans of California high school football hoping that there will be an on-time start to the upcoming 2021 winter season in January are looking at county maps of the state colored in purple, red, orange and yellow.
Sure, the two maps pale in significance, but ever since the state switched to a four-tier reopening process in September, the colored system based on positivity test results and numbers of cases per 100,000 residents has become critical as school districts decide when to let groups of students back onto their campuses for hybrid learning or full on-campus learning.
As the CIF announced last July, when it moved all of its scheduled fall sports seasons (including football) for the 2020-21 school year from the fall until after the new year, county and state health officials will need to approve guidelines so that football practices and games can go on as scheduled. The first games are set for the week of January 6-8. Practices therefore will be taking place three to four weeks before that.
It is generally assumed that playing games, practicing or going back to school will be very difficult if a county of that school is still in the purple or most restrictive category as it relates to the transmission of the disease.
According to this week’s map (which will be updated on Tuesday of next week), Shasta, Tehama, Sonoma, Madera, Monterey, Tulare, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties are in the purple tier. There are some others, however, including San Joaquin, that are in danger of moving back into the purple after advancing to the red tier (second most restrictive category) several weeks ago. Riverside at one point also had advanced to red but reverted to purple two weeks ago. Some schools, such as powerhouse Corona Centennial, were ramping up their outdoor workouts of smaller numbers of players only to have to shut them down.
The good news toward the trends to reopen schools and have football practices next month is that most of the counties in the populated San Francisco Bay Area had moved from red to orange. That’s the level of moderate spread that is just above minimal (yellow).
When asked in late October by Dan Albano of the Orange County Register what we thought about the possibility of a high school football season in the state starting in January, our response was that there would be some schools starting on time but how many was the big question.
If a school like Calaveras of San Andreas, which is in a county with minimal spread, can be joined by similar schools in nearby counties close to the same case totals, then it’s really hard to see how those kids and coaches can be denied a season (even if schools in L.A. County for example can’t play).
Coaches Responses to Questionnaire
One of the questions we placed on our annual survey of California high school football coaches was the following: What are the chances that high school football will be able to start on schedule in early January in your CIF section and does your school have an expected starting date for football workouts or practices?
The answers below are from a cross-section of head coaches from around the state:
“We are prepared as a school. The state and section (North Coast) don’t seem to be.”
Justin Alumbaugh (De La Salle, Concord)
“We have been working out. Official practice will begin December 7th and we are on track to begin on time.”
Ryan Reynolds (Sutter)
“We feel confident about starting in January. We started modified workouts in September following the L.A. County guidelines (small cohorts, masks, social distance etc…). Our plan is to start practice for the season December 10th.”
Drew Casani (Loyola, Los Angeles)
“Conditioning is supposed to start in mid-November, and hopefully we will start our practices with pads on Dec. 14th.”
Jeff Gray (Pacific Grove)
“We do have a date, but unless the state/county rules change, there is no way to play or practice football. Hopefully our state will see how almost every other state is doing it.”
Chris Musseman (Ripon)
“We started a few weeks ago in cohorts. It’s one-third of team two days a week when they come to school and two-thirds of team on the days they come to school. We have no plans on full-team full-time workouts yet.”
Sean Doyle (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego)
“We’re supposed to start (practice) December 9th but have not even been able to have a full team meeting; still stuck in 14-person pods.”
Kyle Biggs (Central, Fresno)
“Chances? It’s all up to the governor. We started on October 1.”
Kurt Bruich (Citrus Valley, Redlands)
“Personally, I think it would have been more likely had they scheduled football in March/April like the other states that opted for spring ball. We have not been given an indication that the start date for football isn’t December 7th, so we are planning as if we will go. We have been conditioning. EGUSD (Elk Grove Unified) allows pods of 14:2 among a group of 50. We may use a ball but it may not be handed off. Everybody must remain six feet apart.”
Chris Nixon (Sheldon, Sacramento)
“I’m not sure about the chances of us to start to play on time. We are currently in our third week of on campus workouts (outdoors, socially distanced, masked, no shared equipment, lots of cleaning). We have not had any health/COVID issues since we started in person training.”
Matt Morrison (Francis Parker, San Diego)
“I think we will have a shorter season (than expected) and we don’t travel much. We started to condition October 14 and we should really start December 14.”
Steven Zenk (Salinas)
“I’m praying it will (start on time), but I guess it’s 50/50. We have started “summer” football in preparation for the season and are in our third week of pod football. I’m hoping that these seniors don’t have their season taken away.”
Joey Montoya (Placer, Auburn)
“With us being in L.A. County, I think our chances to start the season on schedule are low due to the state’s colored COVID tier system. Our school has been practicing since July under strict COVID restrictions.”
Richard Lear (Highland, Palmdale)
“The NCS (North Coast Section) has a scheduled starting date of December 7, but who can you trust? Who is standing up for the rights of our youth? Bureaucrats are just dream deniers.”
Kevin Macy (Campolindo, Moraga)
“I think it’s 50/50 for January 8th. I believe the higher probability is league season (only) starting week 4 or 5.”
Wes Choate (Esperanza, Anaheim)
“We’re cautiously optimistic that we will begin as scheduled. We have already been conditioning under county guidelines.”
Natello Howard (Lincoln, Stockton)
Next Week: Big One for LAUSD
The state’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, has been at the forefront of monitoring in regards to reopening schools amidst the Coronavirus pandemic and getting fall sports perhaps more on schedule to start.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner announced early last week that schools in the district can start to have conditioning workouts beginning on Monday, Nov. 9.
Since the pandemic began in March, school facilities in the district have been essentially shut down, preventing even those types of small group workouts that most other schools in California have been doing (some for many weeks).
Athletes at those schools will still have to pass health protocols before any of those workouts commence so it is likely a lot of schools won’t be ready to gather in those groups until several days later.
The L.A. Times reported last week that Beutner told principals in a Zoom meeting that the CIF calander will not be able to start on Dec. 14. The L.A. Daily News, however, reported that the CIF L.A. City Section had yet to confirm that directive.
We have seen video of an L.A. City charter school, Birmingham of Van Nuys, that did find a path to get permission to have workouts and while there’s still a lot more hurdles to clear it will be a small step in the right direction next week if we can see most L.A. City kids doing conditioning.