May 28, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Defending champion Portola starts summer camp soon amid uncertainty about football season

Portola Coach Peter Abe talks to his team after a game last season. (Photo: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone)

Portola’s High School’s football team will be out to defend its Pacific Coast League title this season. The Bulldogs were 10-2 overall and finished atop the league with a 5-0 mark last year.

It remains to be seen when high school football will start as state, county, school district and CIF officials monitor the cornovirus pandemic, which has put high school sports on hold since early March.

Portola Coach Peter Abe acknowledged the challenges of the past few months, but indicated he and his players have adapted to the changes and are moving forward with a different approach.

“The past few months since schools closed doors in March have been a change for sure, but the Bulldogs have adapted pretty well as we transitioned our off-season program to a digital platform players can access online or via mobile app and progress through workouts at home either with or without weight equipment,” Abe told OC Sports Zone Thursday.

“We worked with one of our founding community partners, Chris Phillips at Compete Sports Performance to modify, adjust, and re-emphasize certain areas of our normal lifting program to help to ensure players have every opportunity to return from the time away in a position that will allow us to safely re-acclimate players to consistent training, while minimizing what we like to call ‘under-use’injuries. 

“Our certified strength and conditioning coach on-staff also designed tools for us to virtually test players functional mobility twice a month to assess players’ progress during the stay-home order. We maintained weekly team meetings throughout our time away, with a few unique Zoom-meeting protocols that allowed us to efficiently transition into spring ball at the normal start of May (to install overviews of our offense, defense, and special teams systems). 

“We’ve gotten great participation from the team, and look forward to working with them in July to progressively/safely work their bodies back into physical shape.”

Officials with the Irvine Unified School District have given the OK for athletic camps to start on Monday, July 6 and preparations are under way to follow the guidelines, Abe said.

“July 6 is the date our district has given us to reopen campuses and begin our summer camps,” Abe said.

“Families are currently working to complete their medical clearances before we get started, and submitting their camp registrations on our athletic department website. We have had great communication with our school medical staff, athletic department, administration, district personnel, as well as city/county health officials to ensure a consistent message is being delivered to our community and individual teams. Our program maintained our monthly parent meetings during this time as well.”

Abe said he and his coaches are working on plans for the start of the football camp at Portola. Officials have indicated the camps must follow guidelines established by the National Federation of High School Sports, including social distancing and face coverings for athletes and coaches.

“Currently, the Orange County Health Agency, our district/city health officials, and athletic administration are finishing up their review of the CDC, State, NFHS, and CIF guidelines for athletics, and are providing us with a thorough, thoughtful, detailed framework for keeping our student-athletes safe as they return-to-play in IUSD,” he said.

“Disinfecting tools, washing stations, hand sanitizer, face masks, individual water bottles, and everything else in between … We’ll be ready.  We’ve just got to read the rulebook, put our game plan together, and execute with a little creativity as we get players back on campus to re-acclimate to life working out consistently again. We all understand the need for patience during these times, but we’d be lying if we said we weren’t excited to get everyone back out there prepping for whatever fall sports is going to look like in the 2020-2021 school year.”

Portola is scheduled to open the season with a Pacific Coast League game against Beckman on Friday, Aug. 21 at Tustin. But that date, and the date of openers throughout the county, has not been confirmed and CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod said in an interview that all options are on the table for the start of fall sports. CIF officials are expected to make a status report by July 20.

“I’m not looking to make any predictions or try to guess what might hypothetically happen between now and the fall,” Abe said.

“All we can do is trust that our district/city/county will give us guidelines to safely return-to-play, the CIF will present the verdict on fall sports on or before July 20th, and the Bulldogs will roll with the punches,” Abe said.

“Whether they plan to try to begin again in September, October, or even January, our coaching staff will have plan A,B, C, all the way through plan Z ready to adapt and overcome whatever COVID-19 has to throw at us now and in the future for the sake our players and parents.”

The Pacific Coast Conference will feature the six Irvine schools along with Laguna Hills and Dana Hills forming two four-team leagues. Dana Hills is only in the conference for football. Laguna Hills joins for all sports.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com