May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

OC reaches required level allowing high school football and water polo teams to compete

A look at the new Fred Kelly Stadium at El Modena High School, home of a number of Orange Unified School District teams. (Photo courtesy Orange Unified School Distict)

Orange County high school football and water polo teams got the go-ahead to start full conditioning drills and plan for their first games as a result of the latest coronavirus average figures released Tuesday by state officials.

Counties needed to reach a coronavirus case rate of 14 or below per 100,000 residents for the two sports to start and Orange County is at 11.9, according to a release from CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod.

The announcement from the California Department of Public Health and the CIF Friday was the first major step for football and water polo returning along with spring two sports, including baseball and softball.

Last Friday, we received information from the governor’s office and the California Department of Public Health regarding return to play for outdoor sports,  based on the factor of each county’s Adjusted Case Rate for COVID-19 per 100,000 people,” Wigod said in the release.

“The  threshold for outdoor sports to begin competition is 14 cases or lower per 100,000 people, as of  Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.”

San Luis Obispo County (9.4) and Los Angeles County (12.3) also got the green light for high school sports to start.

“We are pleased to see that today some of our counties reached the required threshold to begin outdoor sports and are hopeful that those who did not reach the threshold today will reach it next Tuesday,” Wigod said in an additional statement.

“This is a beginning and something we have all eagerly looked forward to. There is more work to be done and we will continue to focus on doing everything we can for our student-athletes to return to play in a healthy and safe way.”

It will be up to each individual school district and school to field teams. Water polo teams can have games as early as Friday while football teams could start full practice Friday and play games two weeks later.

Football and water polo athletes will also have to be tested. Irvine High quarterback Beck Moss said in an interview Monday he is strongly in favor of the testing plan to keep athletes safe.

Other counties still have to reach the 14 mark: San Bernardino (15.2), Riverside County (16.6), Ventura County (16.9), Santa Barbara County (16.9) and Kern County (18.5).

“I will send another update after the adjusted case rates for our counties are released on March 2,  2021, Wigod added.

“Once your county reaches the required  threshold, the following fall outdoor sports of football and boys/girls water polo can begin competition, provided the required COVID-19 testing mandated by the California Department of  Public Health is done for both sports.”

The averages came from the website, Wigod said.

The announcement comes on the same day that the Orange County Health Care Agency reported another decline: 250 cases and no deaths. The agency also confirmed the 11.9 average per 100,000 residents.

“Great, great news,” said Irvine Unified School District Athletic Director Mark Cunningham.

Cunningham said he expects football schedules to be released soon.

“I have to believe everyone has one ready to go,” he said.

Local football coaches, including Portola Coach Peter Abe, expressed their excitement at the news on Twitter Tuesday.

“Get excited for Bulldog Athletics!” the tweet read in part. A tweet from Laguna Hills football and coach Mike Maceranka read: “Fly Hawks Fly.”

Santa Ana Football Coach Charlie TeGantvoort tweeted: “Go Saints!!!” Other tweets came from the Fullerton and Mission Viejo football programs.

As of now. the games are expected to played with only immediate family members in attendance, unless guidelines are changed.

“California Department of Public Health guidelines recommend and basically allow what we call immediate family,” Wigod, the commissioner, said last week.

“Now that will be up to schools to make the determination what immediate family means. As we go forward depending on the facilities and depending on what the circumstances are, they will make those ultimate decisions on who is going to be allowed in to watch.”

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;