By Ray Hamill — The CIF voted unanimously on Tuesday morning to extend the state high school football season by one week.
This pushes the state championship games back to the middle of December, and allows the sections affected by the ongoing wildfires an extra weekend to get their scheduled games in.
“We’re basically back on schedule now,” said St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin, whose team is one of five local programs involved.
Both St. Bernard’s and Fortuna had their NCS quarterfinal matchups postponed over the weekend, and will each now play on Saturday, if the conditions improve.
That remains a big if as of Tuesday, with all the schools in the Santa Rosa area now closed as things appear to be deteriorating.
“We’re telling our kids we can’t be upset about not playing football when there are people who lost their homes, people who lost their lives, and people who had to flee,” Tomlin said.
The majority of the weekend NCS games were affected by the air quality, with only six of the 24 scheduled showdowns going ahead, including three here on the North Coast on Friday, and one in Fort Bragg on Monday night.
Eureka, Del Norte and South Fork each were able to play their scheduled playoff games, with conditions on the North Coast nowhere near as severe.
All three are now playing a waiting game to see what happens next.
If the poor conditions continue through this weekend, the CIF has the option of pushing the regional and state games one week further back before the scheduling would conflict with the holidays.
In extreme circumstances the NCS could also give forfeit wins to the higher seeds, if the games had to be canceled.
A more likely scenario would be to move the games from their scheduled locations to coastal schools, including perhaps playing here in Humboldt County.
St. Bernard’s has put that option to the NCS and has even offered to pay for the use of the Redwood Bowl.
The NCS has not yet responded, presumably keeping all options open in the coming days.
The Fortuna/Kennedy game could also be moved, if necessary, and it would surely start to make make sense if the poor conditions continue, especially when there are playable conditions up here.
“Fortuna should be playing their game up here,” Eureka head coach Jason White said. “St. Bernard’s should be playing their game up here. They need to find ways to solve these issues right now. They’ve got to start thinking outside the box.”
Tuesday’s vote by the CIF was emphatic and at least shows the board is taking steps to address the issue.
“I’m very happy they decided to extend the season and allow the games to be decided on the field,” Tomlin said.
The St. Bernard’s girls soccer team’s NCS championship showdown with Technology has also been affected by the ongoing fires.