By Ray Hamill — The South Fork Cubs will return to 11-player football for one year because of the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, but the proposed H-DNL schedule will make it tough for them and other small schools in the league.
While the H-DNL has yet to officially approve a final football schedule, it is leaning towards a format that would see all nine schools play each other once each.
That means the Cubs will go from playing eight-person football the past three years to matching up against a number of perennial state contenders in the Big 4.
“Am I thrilled about it? Not really,” said South Fork head coach Karl Terrell, who recently began restricted conditioning/skills sessions with his players. “The biggest thing for me is the line. My (skill position players) are pretty good and can probably compete, but the line is a concern.”
Under the proposed H-DNL schedule, which is tentatively set to kick off in mid-February, the Cubs would play Fortuna on opening weekend, followed in turn with matchups against Del Norte, Eureka and St. Bernard’s.
That’s a tough challenge for a program used to playing eight-person football and could see the team’s line wear down against bigger teams.
“I’m a little bit worried about it,” the coach admitted.
The alternative would be for the smaller schools to play each other twice each, and limit the number of games between the bigger and smaller schools, although Terrell admits the majority of the league seems against that idea.
The good news for the Cubs is that they should have enough players to comfortably make the jump back to 11-player football this year with a large senior class.
The school is still on distance learning, but the team began conditioning/skills sessions two weeks ago.
The Cubs’ boys and girls basketball teams will also begin restricted conditioning/skills practice next week.
Basketball and cross country are tentatively scheduled to be the first sports to return to competition in December, although the league still needs to get the green light from state and local health officials.
The H-DNL recently got approval from the NCS for its alternative three-season sports calendar, instead of the state-wide two-season format which would have put pressure on the smaller schools in the area to field teams in what would have been a very busy spring.
“We don’t have enough kids to play multiple sports at the same time,” Terrell said. “The majority of our kids play three sports.”
Terrell, who also is the South Fork Athletic Director, is hoping the Cubs will be allowed to compete if distance learning continues into the new year.
“I think we could still play even if we’re not in school,” he said.