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State health directive ends chance for Northern Section fall football season

The fall football season in the Northern Section is finished. The state Department of Health released revised youth sports guidelines late Monday that, in the interim, ban “tournaments, events or competitions.”

Fall River football coach Todd Sloat had sought a breakaway, one-year league comprised of Division V schools in Shasta, Siskiyous, Plumas and Modoc counties to play in the fall after the CIF moved its three-season calendar back to a two-term model on July 20. Following the CIF announcements the Northern Section countered with its own plan to allow its 73 member schools the chance to piece a fall schedule together as many of its communities remain well below the state threshold for COVID-19 infections.

With the new directive from the state, Sloat admitted Tuesday football won’t be played in the Northern Section this fall.

“We’re done. I just don’t see us being able to do it,” he said.

“Trying to have a winter (football) season for the mountain region is a joke, especially for small schools,” Sloat told Shasta County Sports in July. He cited weather and playing-surface concerns which could lead to a higher rate of injuries and the possibilities of not fielding other sports teams due to the high amount of multi-sport athletes in school’s with small enrollment.

Last season, Fall River beat Los Molinos for the section’s Division V title in a foot of snow in McArthur in late November.

Kerri Schuette, a spokesperson with Shasta County Public Health, said that even though local COVID-19 numbers in the North State and mountain communities might be lower than the rest of the state, the directive cannot be superseded.

“If that’s what the state says, we cannot allow anything,” she said Tuesday morning. “We can be more restrictive but not less.”

Sloat, meanwhile, said he understood the state order effectively means no fall football, but said he wouldn’t give up looking for ways to make a schedule that would benefit the school’s student-athletes, many of whom are two- or three-sport players.

“I just don’t see it reasonable to have a winter football season,” he said of the state’s plan to begin practices in December and games in early January.

And with school set to begin for many in the upcoming weeks, he said keeping the attention and focus of many of the fringe or at-risk student-athletes is going to be a challenge.

“Let’s be honest, there are a lot of kids whose primary focus isn’t necessarily academics,” Sloat said adding that for some “football, girls and the other things” help keep them motivated.

“For those kids, are we going to be able to convince them there is going to be a season and to hang on until then?”

Aaron Williams has been involved in the North State sports scene for nearly two decades. He spent eight years as the Sports Editor for the local newspaper and another four more as the voice of high school football on the radio. Williams has coached various sports at the high school level over the past decade, most recently at Shasta High, and is also the public address announcer for the Shasta College football and basketball teams.

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