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State opens path for high school football with revised health guidelines

High school football and a host of other outdoor sports were green-lighted Friday after state health guidelines were revised under heavy pressure and scrutiny from parent and coaches groups across the state.

There are caveats and it became apparent Friday that unless there are more dramatic changes that basketball, wrestling and volleyball (which was dropped to the yellow tier) won’t be played in the 2020-21 school year.

The state’s new guidelines allow for outdoor youth sports to begin Feb. 26 – even in red or purple tiers – as long as county case rates remain below 14/100,000 and safety precautions are implemented. Shasta County sits at 14.4/100,000 but that average has trended downward since the first of the year, according to date on the Shasta Ready website.

Other stipulations for football returning are precautions including weekly athlete and coach testing, something Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state would help pay for.

Shasta Union High School Superintendent Jim Cloney said Friday that the new guidelines were a good thing, but that “we’ll have to figure out next week how to make it all work.”

“I think we’re going to have to figure out how to modify our timelines,” he said. “I think with football, the big question will be how we adjust things.

“Our position all along is that we’re going do whatever we can do to get all athletes competing in all sports that meet the guidelines.”

With football having a finish deadline of April 30 – and the district saying four games would be the minimum number of games needed to make a season feasible – the math says a mid-March would be the latest start. Football players are required to participate in 10 practices before being allowed in competition.

Foothill coach Joey Brown, who was one of the Northern Section leaders in the coaching group that pressured the governor to revise the guidelines, said while practice won’t start tomorrow, there are a lot things that can start moving.

“This isn’t going to happen as fast as people want, but going from nothing to something is a monumental feat,” he said. “There’s a lot of moving parts, but I have confidence we can get this done, and if we get it done there will be a lot of people to celebrate, including our superintendent.”

One of the biggest issues for sports in Shasta County is redrawing the calendars. With soccer, football, baseball and softball, track and field and other sports eligible, finding time to fit them in before school lets out could prove problematic.

“Hopefully, it doesn’t become an option we just can’t fulfill,” Cloney said about squeezing in football among all the other sports.

Additionally, smaller schools like Central Valley, Anderson, West Valley and U-Prep could find rosters hard to fill as athletes choose one sport over another.

“Smaller schools are going to have tougher times,” Central Valley Principal Kyle Turner said about filling rosters with multiple sports being crammed into a short timeframe. “Philosophically, we’ve always wanted our kids to be able to play whatever they can.

“We talk about the high school experience and how it only happens once in your life. You want those kids to do all they can and experience all the joy and lessons that comes with athletics.”

He said the importance of getting kids active and in-person with coaches is always worth the fight, something Brown echoed.

“We need to work to get the kids back to doing what they do,” Brown said. “When you’re around the kids, you have a greater influence on them.

“Once we see sports back at it, we’ll get to see all the things we’ve been preaching that are good for kids – how it can positively affect their grades and behaviors. But it’s going to take all hands on deck to get this going.”

Aaron Williams has been involved in the North State sports scene for more than 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.

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