It’s been a good-news week for Orange County high school teams in several sports.
There will be a season for football, water polo, baseball, softball, lacrosse and soccer now that the COVID-19 adjusted case rate for the county dropped to 11.9 per 100,000 this week. That is below the state’s new threshold of 14 per 100,000 for a county to allow inter-team competition for those contact outdoor sports.
It still doesn’t look good for basketball and volleyball. As indoor moderate- and high-contact sports, the adjusted case rate needs to drop much further before those sports can be played indoors. CIF leadership is working with the California Department of Public Health to determine what that rate needs to be to allow basketball and volleyball to be played indoors.
Changes could be made, including possibly moving those sports out of the hardest-to-reach tier, yellow, in California’s COVID-19 monitoring system. If that doesn’t happen, indoor basketball and volleyball competitions are unlikely to occur.
“The hoops we have to jump through are getting too small,” said Huntington Beach boys and girls volleyball coach Craig Pazanti. “The timeline we’re working with is not conducive.”
CIF State and CIF Southern Section leadership is working with California health leadership to get basketball and volleyball going. Despite what one might see on social media, state and section officials have constantly lobbied in Sacramento for the return of high school sports and continue to do so.
TAKE IT OUTSIDE?
If indoor basketball and volleyball cannot be played, an alternative could be outdoor basketball and volleyball.
Sage Hill High is ready for it. The school has an outdoor court made of modular material.
“It’s tough to dive on, so it might not be great for volleyball,” said Sage Hill athletic director Megan Cid. “But it’s great for basketball.”
Sage Hill basketball coach Billy Conlon agreed that the modular court is fine for basketball.
“The traction is very much up to the standard you’d want for any outdoor court,” Conlon said. “It’s got a great bounce to it. It’s not as good as wood, but it feels similar to it when you’re out there on the court playing.”
A trip around the internet reveals that such a multi-use court can cost as much as $100,000 after installation.
• Even if the CDPH makes the moves to allow sports to be played, or provides guidelines on COVID-19 protocols and spectator attendance, the final say will be made by schools and school districts.
• Wrestling will be happening outdoors. Where? “On the football field, in the quad,” said Servite wrestling coach Alan Clinton who is on the CIF-SS wrestling advisory committee. A wrestling coaches’ meeting Wednesday night was supposed to discuss details and schedules for boys and girls wrestling. The season can begin March 5.
• An early Orange County football preseason top 10 (research still underway, so don’t get too excited): 1. Mater Dei; 2. Servite; 3. Mission Viejo; 4. San Clemente; 5. Santa Margarita; 6. Los Alamitos; 7. La Habra; 8. Orange Lutheran; 9. Corona del Mar; 10. JSerra. Others considered (alphabetical order, so don’t get too excited): Edison; San Juan Hills; Tesoro; Villa Park; Yorba Linda.
• Football teams that began the mandatory three-day conditioning period Tuesday are on track to have the required 14 days of practice completed in time to open their season March 11-13. Doing so would give teams a chance to play six games, the maximum possible by the CIF-SS calendar. Six-team leagues that start the season March 11-13 will have room for a nonleague game, and many teams are searching for a sixth-game opponent.
• Orange County teams can play against schools in neighboring counties, according to CDPH restrictions, but cannot play schools in counties that are not on the county border. Games against schools in Los Angeles, San Bernardio, San Diego and Riverside counties can happen, but games against schools in Ventura County are not allowed.
• Attendance at high school events, as specified by the CDPH: “Limit observations … to immediate household members … limit number of observers to ensure physical distance can be maintained … consider video streaming of games so that they can be watched ‘live’ from home.” School districts and private schools will have to figure out how to make that work.
• Transportation for teams playing away games could be expensive. Because of social-distancing requirements, athletes can’t be stuffed into buses like before. More buses will be needed to transport teams to away games, and more buses means more money spent on transportation.
• There will be no CIF-SS or CIF State playoffs or championships for the Season 1 sports of cross country, football, competitive cheer, girls volleyball and boys and girls water polo. CIF-SS and state playoffs and competition remain on the calendar for the Season 2 sports of badminton, baseball, boys and girls basketball, competitive sports cheer, boys and girls golf, boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls soccer, softball, boys and girls swimming and diving, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, boys volleyball and boys and girls wrestling. The status of CIF-SS and state Season 2 sports playoffs and championships will be announced later by the appropriate offices, probably in April.
• Servite is among those teams looking for an opponent. Damien of La Verne and St. Augustine of San Diego are on the list of potential opponents.
• Pregame COVID-19 testing of athletes and coaches is going to be interesting. According to the California Department of Public Health, test results must be “made available within 24 hours of competition.” Let’s hope all athletic departments provide honest and accurate results.
• Last season (2019 season), the best all-around football player in Orange County was San Juan Hills’ Joey Hobert, who is now at Washington State. This season’s Joey Hobert might have been Laguna Hills senior Mitch Leigber, who has played safety, running back and receiver. Leigber, though, has opted not to play as a senior so that he can get ready to play for Stanford in the fall.
• High school basketball is being played, sort of, indoors. Many club basketball teams that look a lot like high school teams (because a club team’s roster might have the same players as a high school team’s roster) are playing under names like Big Red (Mater Dei) and Eagle Select (Santa Margarita) at a few places around the county, including at Open Gym Premier, the old Anaheim Sports Centers in Anaheim, and at the Ladera Sports Center in Ladera Ranch. Pat Barrett, who runs the Southern California All-Stars club organization that’s been around for decades, casually said this week, “We played JSerra on Sunday and we’ve played Santa Margarita twice.”
• Mater Dei girls basketball senior Brooke Demetre was named to the McDonald’s All-Amercan Games’ West team roster. Demetre, last season’s county player of the year, signed with Stanford.
• Orange County Football Officials Association assignor Paul Caldera said the group’s roster of officials is deep enough to staff all varsity football games. Staffing lower-level football games, he said, likely will not be a problem, although Caldera needs to see how many lower-level teams will play before he can be certain of that.