By Ray Hamill — Are you ready for some football? Apparently the North Coast is.
The news on Friday that the state has cleared the way for a return to all outdoor high school sports has been well received here, to say the least.
“I was ecstatic,” Del Norte head coach Nick White said. “It gives the seniors a chance to play and that’s what we’ve wanted all along.”
St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin echoed the sentiment.
“I was just so happy for the kids,” Tomlin said. “Just having a chance to play their season this year, it’s the first positive news they’ve heard since last spring.
“This is bigger than wins and losses and championships.”
The updated state youth sports guidelines allow for a return to competition in all high school outdoor sports from Feb. 26, just seven days from now.
The H-DNL is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the options, and if the league can clear the way for a return to practice by next Friday, or the following Monday at the latest, it would allow for the mandatory 10 days of practice and a six-game season.
The season must be completed by April 17.
“I would hope five games would be the minimum,” White said. “Five would be great. Six would be even better.”
Tomlin said they should be able to get six contests in, even if one was a scrimmage.
“I think everybody’s pretty united at all nine high schools that play football and other sports,” the St. Bernard’s coach said. “We all just want to get the kids back out there playing.
“I think everybody’s been pushing for the same thing here and there’s been some really good discussions by the league.”
There are still several logistics to overcome, in addition to putting a schedule together quickly.
Players in the high-contact sports like football must be tested weekly, which will be paid for by the state.
All indoor sports, meanwhile, remain on hold until the local counties reach the less restricted orange (volleyball) and yellow (basketball and wrestling) tiers.
Student athletes will also now only be permitted to play one sport at a time, a decision that has gone back and forth several times over the past few weeks.
That could put pressure on many of the schools in the H-DNL to even field a team in certain sports, with many of them relying heavily on multi-sport athletes.
Indeed, there will be much for the H-DNL to discuss on Wednesday.
Regardless of the many obstacles still to overcome, Friday’s news was seen as a huge boost, with the majority of high school sports having been shut down since March.
“I’m pretty excited,” McKinleyville head coach Keoki Burbank said. “This is the longest I’ve been without football since I was nine years old. I’m pretty excited to get back.”
For the players, the work will begin immediately.
In a group text to his players on Friday morning, Tomlin’s message was loud and clear.
“I told them, ‘it’s real, it’s here and we don’t want anyone to waste a day, even this weekend,’” he said. “They have to start getting themselves ready.”