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COVID K-12

High school sports further delayed, championships cancelled — but hope for truncated seasons still remains

At least one Santa Cruz County coach believes some form of a season remains possible for all sports — fall, winter and spring — but they will have to be truncated and played local so that teams aren’t crossing into other counties.

Under the original delayed plan outlined by the California Interscholastic Federation, high school football teams were scheduled to begin practices on Dec. 14.

Looking at the county’s COVID-19 data and seeing the impending run of holidays ahead, Scotts Valley High football coach Louie Walters knew that wasn’t realistic. So he announced to his team six weeks ago that they’d get to January and see what happens next.

“People thought I was drinking tequila when I said we weren’t starting Dec. 14, but it just didn’t seem realistic,” Walters said.

He was right.

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On Tuesday, the Falcons’ plan became that of the other fall high school sports programs around the county as the CIF announced that it doesn’t expect updated youth sports guidelines to be issued by state health officials until after Jan. 1 at the earliest, putting on hold the previously scheduled start of full practices in December.

The state‘s governing body for high school sports also announced that it is canceling regional and state championships for season 1, primarily fall sports, to enable the 10 sections to have better flexibility for scheduling. That means no bowl games in football and no state championships in cross-country, volleyball and water polo.

Walters, also Scotts Valley’s athletic director, believes some form of a season remains possible for all sports — fall, winter and spring — but they will just have to be truncated and played local so that teams aren’t crossing into other counties.

“What we need to do is get the band back together,” he said referring to the former incarnation of the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League, which included all county schools stretching from Felton to Watsonville. For instance, Walters said, even a four-game football season that made sure teams played their natural rival would be a valuable save.

“Just get those seniors that one rivalry game and that would be something special,” he said.

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He said such discussion is underway with other local athletic directors and administrators of the SCCAL and Pacific Coast Athletic League, which includes the South County schools. They’re working under the assumption that the county can get back to the red tier eventually and that state, CIF and Central Coast Section guidelines will place control in the hands of each individual county to decide how to proceed.

“The kids are still planning on a season, we’re still planning on it,“ Walters said of his football team. “We just don’t know when it will be.”

State officials were supposed to release updated sports guidelines last month but then pulled back after a surge in COVID-19 rates.

The section commissioners held a video conference Tuesday, and one proposal under consideration to help with scheduling issues is allowing practices and games on Sundays.

The continued delay in youth sports guidance is likely to empower parents to seek out club teams in various sports. Club teams continue to train and some even travel to competitions outside of California.