Redlands Citrus Valley coach Kurt Bruich said he never lost faith about some kind of a football season happening.
“I felt like a clown a few times when I kept telling people, ‘Well, they haven’t told us, no, yet’ ” Bruich said.
A season is on the brink now, as San Bernardino County has hit the threshold for outdoor contact sports to resume. The county posted the update late Thursday, Feb, 25, saying outdoor contact sports could proceed beginning Friday. Feb. 26.
When the California Department of Public Health released its initial guidelines for youth sports in December, only a handful of low-contact outdoor sports were allowed to have competitions when counties were in the purple tier of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan. But on Friday, Feb. 19, the CPDH announced amendments to those guidelines, allowing outdoor sports like football, baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer and water polo to resume competitions once a county’s adjusted case rate (cases per 100,000 residents, adjusted for the amount of testing) was below 14.
Los Angeles and Orange counties both reached this new threshold on Tuesday, Feb. 23. San Bernardino County’s rate stood at 15.2 that day, but the rate dropped to 11.4 on Friday, Feb. 26, according to county spokesman David Wert. Riverside County updates its coronavirus numbers each Tuesday, and the county’s adjusted rate this week was 16.6. The rate has dropped each of the past six weeks, a good sign Riverside County will meet the threshold on March 1.
San Bernardino County football coaches expected to hear the news March 1, so the early announcement was welcomed.
“It’s exciting news for everyone,” said Nick Baiz, the football coach at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga.
“We have been waiting to hear something like this for about 12 months. The kids have been patient through it all, and they are eager for the chance to play again. Their spirits have picked up since the update came out last week.”
The California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for high school sports, requires football teams to have 14 days of practice before playing an official game and 10 days of practice before scrimmaging another team. The first three days are for conditioning only. After those three days, teams can begin practicing in full pads.
The CIF Southern Section set an April 17 end date for the football season when it adjusted its schedule in July, and section officials said that date will not change. That means San Bernardino County football teams will have the opportunity to schedule up to five games, with the first possible game happening the week on March 15.
Bruich and his staff will hand out equipment to players Friday in anticipation of being able to practice next week.
“This is a big day, especially for those seniors who stuck around, believed and showed up every day,” Bruich said. “The seniors will have some kind of close on their high school careers. They are really fired up and ready to go.”
Greg Gano, the football and softball coach at Don Lugo High School in Chino, is excited for all of his players.
“Four weeks ago, I would have bet $1,000 dollars that we were not going to have a football season,” Gano said. “I’m happy most of all for our seniors that we can give them something to look forward to. Now, we have to go out and make the best of the situation we have. The kids are ready and excited to play.”
San Bernardino County high school water polo, lacrosse, soccer, baseball and softball teams also have the go-ahead for competition. The CIF Southern Section boys and girls water polo season was scheduled to begin in December, so those teams have only limited time remaining for competition. The start date for boys and girls soccer and girls lacrosse is Saturday, Feb. 27. Boys lacrosse can start on March 12, and baseball and softball seasons can begin March 19.
Weekly testing of athletes and coaches is required for football and water polo until a county reaches the red tier (adjusted rate below 7), and the decision whether or not to compete in certain sports will be made by each school or district. Many Inland leagues and school districts had several meetings this week to discuss the next steps.
This story is developing. Check back for more updates.