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What do season postponements mean for high school sports in Oregon?

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With the OSAA’s decision to postpone high school sports this fall, what’s next for Salem-Keizer’s coaches and players?

The OSAA left it up to the individual districts for how they want to handle workouts on campuses throughout the fall, and Salem-Keizer Public Schools came up with a preliminary plan on Thursday.

The plans calls for no workouts in September to allow athletes and coaches time to focus on the start of the school year and academics.

After that break, players in spring sports will have about three or four weeks to work out on campuses, followed by fall sports for three or four weeks, and then winter sports for three to four weeks as they head into their season.

Conservative approach

The first official date on the new OSAA calendar is Dec. 28, when basketball, wrestling and swimming can begin practices for the winter season.

“We’re going to be pretty conservative in the things that we do (in the fall),” McNary athletic director Scott Gragg said. “Our workouts will look similar to our summer workouts — minimal numbers, with cleaning protocols, distancing protocols, with certain groups of people.”

In the new calendar, winter sports will compete in January and February, followed by fall sports in March and April, then spring sports in May and June.

Athletic directors and coaches in Salem-Keizer applauded the OSAA’s decision to not stack sports from different seasons, so athletes wouldn’t have to choose between sports.

“What I like the most is that we’ve preserved the opportunity to have three-sport athletes to play all three sports,” West Salem athletic director Bill Wittman said. “We didn’t take three seasons and squeeze them into two and force kids to make choices.”

North Salem cross country coach Michael Herrmann agreed.

“I really think the OSAA did a great job,” Herrmann said. “Given the situation, to come up with a way to have everybody still have an opportunity I think is great.”

Will best players skip football season?

The football season will start in March, after both the early signing day (Dec. 16) and regular signing day (Feb. 3).

That means players who are already committed to college could opt out of their senior season in football. In fact, Lebanon’s Keith Brown, a four-star linebacker who’s the state’s top-rated player and an Oregon commit, has already said he won’t play his senior season.

“Teams that have kids going to BCS schools, that would definitely be a concern. But I think in the environment we’re in, everybody is learning how to adapt minute to minute,” West Salem football coach Shawn Stanley said. “Our approach will be whoever is there, we’re going to coach them up the best we can and go play.”

West Salem senior quarterback Jackson Lowery, who also plays basketball, said he hasn’t fully made up his mind yet, but he hopes to play multiple sports this school year.

“I haven’t thought much about it yet, but right now I plan on playing football and basketball,” Lowery said. “I had been preparing that they would move football to the spring, so this is something I saw coming. It is what it is, and we’re going to make the best of it.”

Cross country, track now back-to-back

Another possible significant change is that the cross country and track and field seasons are now back-to-back, with cross country in March and April, and track in May and June. In normal circumstances, the entire winter season separates the two sports.

Herrmann said he doesn’t see that as a problem.

“I actually think it’s pretty exciting to have them back to back,” he said. “I think it’s an advantage for the distance runners because you’re coming off the cross country season where you’re training at the longer distances, and you’re going to have this large training base under you to move right into the shorter, faster distances.”

Sprague senior volleyball player Lily Albrecht said she and her teammates are bummed about not playing this fall, but they are excited that they will get a season.

“I’m really glad that we’re actually having a season. It’s kind of a bummer, but it was expected,” she said. “I think every player is so ready for the season to start.”

Sprague volleyball coach Anne Olsen said she has heard that the club volleyball teams will work around the new high school schedule in March and April.

“The message I’ve heard from clubs in the area is they will either take a break, or they’ll do whatever they need to do to work around the high school schedule,” Olsen said. “I am pretty confident that I’ll have girls for the season and not have to worry too much about them having to choose between club and high school.”

Gragg said the biggest thing for the schools and everybody involved during the fall is to get the COVID-19 metrics to a point where school can open up.

“The fall for us is defeating COVID. That’s got to be our game plan,” he said. “If we can get our metrics in Marion and Polk counties to the right spot, and if we can get kids back in school, then that only increases our likelihood of being able to have sports.”

Pete Martini covers high school and college sports for the Statesman Journal. You can contact Pete at pmartini@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6730 and follow @PeteMartiniSJ

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Sports

College Football Weekend Preview: Maybe Watch Another Sport

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As the college sports world is in chaos, with some teams playing, some dropping out and the Big Ten suddenly changing its mind about playing football this fall, it might get overlooked that there is another slate of games this weekend.

And, partly because of the confusion and cancellations, that slate of games is absolutely terrible.

A fan hoping to forget the state of the world for a while and enjoy some high quality football is going to be at a severe loss this Saturday. Is there even one game worth watching? Let’s look at the lineup.

Only two members of The Associated Press Top 10 are in action this weekend, and neither game seems likely to be an edge-of-the-seat contest.

No. 7 Notre Dame is usually a popular team to root for or against, but how much uncertainty will there be this week against South Florida, a 25-point underdog that finished 4-8 last year?

At least No. 1 Clemson is playing … against The Citadel. Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and company are usually exciting to watch, but their F.C.S. opponent is playing the second of what is expected to be only a four-game schedule. Clemson is a 45-point favorite, and frankly plenty of people will line up to bet them anyway.

Willing to dip a little out of the top 10? No. 11 Oklahoma State and their speedy running back Chuba Hubbard are 23-point favorites over Tulsa. And No. 13 Cincinnati is a 33-point favorite over Austin Peay. Don’t expect surprises.

“College GameDay” has chosen to travel to No. 18 Louisville and feature its game against No. 17 Miami. It’s the only game between ranked teams this week, so there’s that. But a closer look shows it might be far from a classic. While Louisville was a respectable 8-5 last season, finishing three games behind Clemson in their A.C.C. division, Miami was 6-7, its season culminating in a 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl.

No. 14 Central Florida against Georgia Tech isn’t an awful matchup. Central Florida is a few years removed from when it had actual national title aspirations, but it still has a 35-4 record over the last three seasons. Georgia Tech is coming off a bad year, but it opened the season with a 16-13 victory over Florida State as a 13-point underdog.

Because Big Ten and Pac-12 teams are not currently ranked by the A.P., quite a few lesser lights suddenly are considered “top 25” teams. Though No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette just defeated Iowa State, its game this week against Georgia State doesn’t set the pulse racing, nor does No. 24 Appalachian State against Marshall.

There aren’t any, although a few A.C.C. games are being played. Aside from Miami-Louisville, there’s No. 25 Pitt against Syracuse and Wake Forest-North Carolina State. Not even an A.C.C. fanatic is canceling other plans for those.

Baylor had a problem. Its game against Louisiana Tech had been canceled after an outbreak among Tech players. That left it with no warm-up games before Big 12 play began.

Houston had the same problem. An outbreak at Memphis had caused a postponement of their game this week.

So after some frantic calls and negotiations, Baylor and Houston agreed to face off on Saturday. The deal took days, rather than weeks, to arrange, and was made barely a week before the game, an increasingly common timeline in these pandemic days.

And this shotgun marriage may turn out to be the most intriguing game of the day.

Baylor was 11-2 last year before losing to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, and again looks like a top-five team in the Big 12.

Baylor doesn’t always schedule tough nonconference opponents, to say the least. Last year its games were against Stephen F. Austin, Texas-San Antonio and Rice, and Baylor beat them by an average of 32 points.

But Baylor may have stumbled into a real game this week. Houston was only 4-8 last year, but that was after essentially giving up on the season and allowing many top players to redshirt after a slow start.

Baylor lost Coach Matt Rhule to the Carolina Panthers and may have the growing pains of dealing with a new system and staff.

Given all that, Houston is only a 4½-point underdog, meaning a close game is more than possible. And there should be scoring. Houston’s Air Raid offense tends to put points on the board, and its defense can give them up. The over/under for the game is 63.

Maybe there’s something to watch on Saturday after all.

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State High fall contact sports can play depending on in-person learning

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The State College Area School District made its ruling on fall sports competition Thursday night.

The Little Lions will have some form of fall sports, but whether a student can play might depend on a number of factors.

The SCASD school boards approved two different plans for fall sports: one for non-contact sports and one for contact sports.

Non-contact sports (cross country, golf and tennis) can participate in fall competition whether the district is doing in-person learning or not.

Contact sports (football, field hockey, soccer and volleyball) can participate in fall sports competitions only if the school district is participating in in-person learning. If the district is doing remote learning, contact sports can only practice and conduct inter-squad scrimmages.

The school board approved the plan for contact sports by a 7-2 vote. You can see the full school board meeting here. The district is currently in its second week of remote learning.

You can review the district’s full health and safety plan here.

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New York fall youth sports still in question

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BEEKMANTOWN, N.Y. (WCAX) – Before COVID-19, fall Friday nights were usually spent under the lights in many rural communities in the North Country. But, with the uncertainty that the coronavirus brings, fall sports could look very different this season.

The Hansen family spent last fall on the sidelines cheering on number 33, Jack Hansen, a Peru varsity freshman playing full back and linebacker.

“Kids need outlets and when they don’t get those, they are going to find them in other ways that are unhealthy and not safe,” mom Kristin Hansen said.

But this season, Jack will stick to tossing the pigskin in his yard with his dad.

“They’re playing all across the United States; why can’t we?” Kristin Hansen wondered.

New York guidelines say no high-contact sports– football, volleyball, rugby and hockey– until after December 31.

No- to low-contact sports, like tennis and swimming, can happen but will have a delayed start and shorter season.

“Our focus is can we do this in-person learning five days a week safely,” said Dan Mannix, the superintendent of the Beekmantown Central School District.

Peru School has not made a call on having fall sports yet but Beekmantown Central School District is holding off on all fall sports until at least October 5. The district is waiting 21 days in school to monitor how cases go in school and in the surrounding community.

“I’d like to see the kids play all hinging on if we are doing this safely,” Mannix said.

But the school says if they do play, they will be playing with stricter guidelines than outlined by the state which doesn’t require a mask when practicing or playing.

“We’re going to put our masks on, our fans are going to put their masks on and were going to keep safety first. If we go somewhere else and they don’t have those rules, we may not go,” Mannix said.

Still, some parents are unhappy with the state’s decision to hold off on high-contact sports that can’t play until next year, especially with the uncertainty of North Country weather playing interference with the season.

“We have done everything that we needed to do, the kids have done everything that they needed to do and now we are being told again it’s not enough,” Kristin Hansen said.

Hansen is hosting a “Let Them Play” rally in Plattsburgh at noon this Saturday. Masks must be worn at the rally in front of Assemblyman Billy Jones’ office on the U.S. Oval. It’s one of many rallies happening across New York State supporting fall sports.

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.

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