Burney football coach Jed Tate said the news that the Raiders won’t be able to pad up this spring was like a roller coaster ride when the bottom drops out and you feel it in the pit of your stomach.
“There’s been ups and downs and all-arounds,” he said of the hurry-up-and-wait delays since school began in August. “I figured it would be a matter of time the plug was pulled after (district school) Fall River opted out.”
But, Tate said, his principal/athletic director kept looking for solutions.
“I kept thinking ‘Why aren’t they calling us off?’” he said. “We were trying to make it happen, but much of the Evergreen League was looking to make a run at basketball.
The window just kept getting smaller and smaller.”
The coach who helped revitalize the Raiders’ program with a drop to 8-man action said it’s “heartbreaking” to see his group not be able to finish what they started.
“You’ve got kids (in the program) from an 0-10 campaign where you maybe scored 10 touchdowns in the whole year to where we had a ton of success last year and scored that many in a handful of games,” Tate said. “To have that snatched away was pretty tough.”
Among the seniors who won’t get to play for Burney one last time include Shasta County Sports Top 50 returning players Bryan Banos, Hayden Crook and Connor Pfadt.
Additionally, when Burney takes the field, potentially, in August it’ll have been 21 months since any of Tate’s player have seen any gridiron action.
“All the backup guys won’t have had any reps,” he said. “The sophomores will be seniors and it’ll be a little like starting from scratch.”
Frustrated by the constant delays, Tate said he watched his senior son, Langston, move to Montana to prepare for college only to see local schools there participate in football, basketball and even wrestling.
“I really feel like if Gov. (Gavin) Newsom didn’t do anything, we could’ve played and then shut things down if there were COVID outbreaks,” he said.
Small school problems
And the delays, push backs and tier system has affected the Northern Section’s smaller schools harder than larger schools.
Most small schools not only see coaches taking on multiple teams across all seasons, but have among the highest percentage of multi-sport athletes in the state.
Fall River was one who felt the number crunch in opting to forgo football and focus on spring sports like baseball, softball, track and field, and golf.
Even before the state relaxed its colored tiers, the Bulldogs were full speed ahead on athletics it knew were manageable in their small, mountain community.
“For us, the (football) ship has sailed,” Fall River Principal Kelly Freeland-Sloat said last week, adding that even if the state had relaxed rules three months ago the winter wouldn’t have permitted football in McArthur. “It’s not fair to the spring sport athletes who didn’t have a season last year.”
The issues to gearing up for a shortened season were prohibitive, she said, from testing to ensure athletes were properly conditioned, as well as a potential Title IX issue without offering volleyball, a sport moved to yellow by the state.
“We’ve had big signups for sports we’re offering and honestly the kids were happy to sign up,” Freeland-Sloat said. “We’re trying to make the best of it and keep the kids involved.”
Volleyball also out
While much of the state was following the political lobbying to get football reinstated, the basketball and volleyball communities felt much like a rider watching the bus pass them by at the bus stop.
As the state announced new youth sports guidelines a few weeks back, football proponents hailed the decision while volleyball players were left wondering why their sport was moved from orange – the same tier as football – to yellow, which aligned them with wrestling, basketball and other “high-contact, indoor sports.”
“I have no idea what to make of all the colors,” U-Prep senior volleyball player Maddie Kremer said.
With help of her Panthers’ coach Tawni Kramer, as well as being able to play club volleyball in Sacramento, Kremer said her frustration has diminished some.
“It sucks. At first, I was pissed to not have a season, but coach has really drilled it into to me to control what I can control,” said Kremer who said she’s using her club activity to continue to look for scholarship opportunities after pounding nearly 400 kills last season.
Coach Kramer said the Panthers were poised to be among the section’s best after a 36-8 season before being bounced in a bizarre five-set match loss in the opening round of the NorCal playoffs.
She pointed to Kremer, Kaitlyn Cabral, Ashlee Kraft and Emma Friar as players who “would’ve killed it.”
“Many of the girls will get another chance, but it’s absolutely heartbreaking for my seniors,” said said.
Kremer recognized the irony of being able to play club volleyball, but for the high school but said she’s happy to represent the Panthers in track and field this season where she does throws, the high jump and 400-meter relay.
“I wanted to make my own senior memories, but I’ll take what I can get,” she said.
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