May 28, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Some signs high school football season is coming, but start date is anybody’s guess

Santa Ana High School football players greet fans after a game last season. (File photo: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone)

Maybe, just maybe, things are starting to turn around in Orange County and throughout the state and that the overall outlook for the eventual return of high school sports and all sports is improving.

On Saturday, the state of California and Governor Gavin Newsom approved full stage two reopening of businesses and services in California, according to a press release posted on the County of Orange website.

Among other highlights, it allows in-person dining with proper social distancing and allows for retail shopping along with curbside pick-up.

Social distancing is required along with other measures, such as disinfecting protocols at the businesses. Training and assessment of employees will have to be held before the businesses re-open, the release said.

This is certainly welcome news for the business owners in the county who have been hit so hard by the closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. The owners have families to feed and mortgages and rents to pay.

It may also signal hope that high school athletics could eventually be returning. There were a couple encouraging reports earlier in the week. On Friday, CIF commmissioner Rob Wigod issued a statement saying that all options were on the table for the fall, winter and spring sports. Wigod didn’t say anything about cancelling seasons, which was encouraging.

Two days earlier, officials with the Irvine Unified School District said that spring camps would start on Monday, June 22. Those dates could be delayed, based on health conditions and requirements by the state. If needed, the start of the camps would be pushed to Monday, July 6.

Again, no mention of cancellations.

For the past two months, OC Sports Zone and other outlets have reported cancellations of the high school sports spring season and the devastating affect it had on athletes, especialy seniors. High school coaches did the best they could to honor these honors with drive-by ceremonies. End of year banquets were cancelled, but the athletes were honored in virtual ceremonies.

Coaches shared their senior tributes.

Then numerous all-star events, including a proposed Ryan Lemmon Showcase involving hundreds of Orange County baseball seniors at the Great Park Baseball Stadium was cancelled because state officials still had regulations against large gatherings. No facilities would have been available.

“We had it probably 80 percent planned,” said organizer Guy Lemmon. “We and the coaches had gone to the trouble of identifying who wanted to play and we were developing rosters and we had 16 games scheduled and probably 400 to 500 young men were going to play.”

The games would have gone without fans in the stands and coaches, umpires and game officials would have had to wear masks. Temperature checks of athletes would also be required.

Fans would have still been able to watch the games but not in person.

“We were going to compensate for that by having it live streamed for mom and dad,” said Lemmon, president of the Ryan Lemmon Foundation. “But best I can see there isn’t a baseball stadium in Orange County or Southern California that is accessible through at least the end of June.”

While the showcase doesn’t look like it will be happening, there appears to be hope for the future and signs that a high school football season will happen, along with sports for other fall teams. When that will happen and how it will look is anybody’s guess right now. We’ve heard speculation the football season could start any time from August to January.

Most teams are scheduled to start seasons on Friday, Aug. 21. But that date appears to be up in the air.

“I just look at everything,” said Woodbridge Athletic Director Rick Gibson. “I look at the (youth) soccer games, are they going to limit the parents to see their kids play soccer? It’s one of those things where you shake your head and you don’t know.”

Gibson also wonders whether the rules will be the same for club sports.

If high school football games go on, there will be likely be many changes and safeguards. Hand shaking and high fives will be discouraged, there won’t be sharing of water bottles and perhaps temperature checks of players and coaches will be required.

There are other factors in a typical football game too like the marching band.

“…You look at every Irvine school how big their marching band is, and how important they are to a football game…..them not being there or having them sit from apart each other, that’s a question,” Gibson said.

Gibson said he envisions some major changes for sports, regardless of when they start.

“I think it’s not going to be a normal start, that’s for sure,” he said.

And what about fans? High school programs count on the revenue from those football games to survive. So, it’s tough to imagine high school football games without fans.

“There are ways you can do things, I know you can stream a lot of stuff now, so maybe the at-risk people, they just watch it streaming, rather them being at the facility,” Gibson said.

Also, are fans going to want to jam into a football stadium again?

In these troubled times, many have stepped up to lift the spirits of others. One of those was Kevin Joynt, a tennis player at Corona del Mar who organized a 5K fund-raiser to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

These athletes make a difference and give many hope for the future, however unsure that may be.

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