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The Northern Plan: How to play football and volleyball in counties not on the state watch list

Under the Northern Plan, a scenario put together by Shasta County Sports staff, U-Prep would stay in the NAL for football but swap out to the EAL with the large schools for all other sports due based on competitive equity. (FILE PHOTO -- Mike Daly/Shasta County Sports)

The Northern Section football scenario is sort of like a living Rubik’s Cube – once you think you’ve figured out one side of the puzzle, another move messes it up and you’re forced to re-evaluate.

The Eastern Athletic League opted last week to push its football season back to align with the CIF calendar. Then, what we’ll call the “Fall River Plan” of small mountain schools floating an idea to play in the fall popped up over the weekend.

The Northern Athletic League appears to be the next turn of the cube, meeting this week to discuss its fortunes. The medium-school league, comprised of Orland, Lassen, Anderson, Central Valley, Yreka and U-Prep for football, is in a similar situation as the EAL, with Orland in a county – Glenn – that sits on the state’s COVID watch list. The NAL for all other sports features Anderson, CV, U-Prep, West Valley, Lassen and Yreka.

The crux of all this is that at some point, like with the Fall River Plan, difficult decisions are going to have to be made for the sake of the student-athlete, as was suggested to Shasta County Sports this weekend by several coaches.

Wanting to play with your league-mates is admirable, but not at the expense of your season.

At what point do Shasta, Enterprise and Foothill realize Butte County might not be off the state watch list? If you’re playing for the Wolves, Hornets and Cougars the hope would be prior to a point of no return. And with Tehama County seeing its numbers rising, Red Bluff, Corning and Los Molinos could soon find themselves on the outside. Tehama County is nearing the watch list threshold of 100 active positive cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days, sitting at 97.1, which could put the county on the state’s watch list.

As it stands now, the EAL is set to start practicing some time in December and begin games in early January (although no EAL timetable exists, we’re going off what other sections have proposed). Foothill, Shasta and Enterprise can’t afford to get to early November and realize that Chico and Pleasant Valley just won’t be able to compete in the EAL. And as much as we enjoy watching a Foothill-Enterprise, Enterprise-Shasta or Foothill-Shasta battle, it’s unrealistic to think they’d be willing and able to play a multiple game round robin schedule.

Phew, that’s a lot to take in.

But there’s a solution (that could apply to volleyball as well, in addition to other sports). And here’s what we’re proposing: The Northern Plan.

Northern Plan – Football only

EAL NAL Shasta Cascade League
Enterprise Anderson Burney
Foothill Central Valley Etna
Lassen Trinity Chester
Shasta U-Prep Fall River
West Valley Yreka Modoc
Mt Shasta

The EAL and NAL would play four league games and could add up to two preseason games in crossover (for example: West Valley and Anderson playing a preseason South County Clash contest) or leagues could opt to add a second game within the league for a home-and-home series (Example: who wouldn’t want two River Bowls?). The Shasta Cascade League would add 8-man team Burney for geographical reasons to fill out a nine-team league for an eight-game schedule.

The move would allow schools in Shasta, Lassen, Siskiyous, Trinity, Plumas and Modoc counties to play this fall and then work on aligning their own basketball, wrestling, soccer, baseball and softball seasons according to their owns needs.

One thing that hasn’t been discussed much is the strain the CIF plan creates for the Northern Section in terms of transportation and facilities, all of which could be alleviated with this plan.

The other plus from the Northern Plan is it allows time for the southern schools in the section to see their counties get off the monitoring lists and work at creating their own 2020 leagues. The hope is that this is really a 2020 situation and that we return to a “normal” year in the 2021-22 school calendar.

Northern Plan – All other sports

Enterprise Anderson Burney
Foothill Central Valley Etna
Shasta Lassen Chester
U-Prep Trinity Fall River
West Valley Yreka Modoc
Mt. Shasta
Redding Chr.

The two switches would be to swap Lassen and U-Prep for competitive equity among other sports, shifting the Panthers into the EAL with the ‘big’ schools and the Grizzlies being more competitive with the NAL teams — where it currently sits. The only change for the SCL would be to add Redding Christian to the mix, which has shown it can compete in several sports against those would-be opponents.

“That looks good, I’m sure if we ever get to play it might look something like that,” said one Northern Athletic League athletic director.

Two other administrator of NAL schools agreed it could be a good fit.

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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