It's go time! High school sports are finally back, specifically football.
Following Tuesday's updated COVID-19 case-rates in Riverside County, outdoor local high school sports have been approved to play, ending a lengthy layoff that has sidelined local student-athletes.
As we've been reporting, 14 was the magic number. The threshold was 14 coronavirus cases or less per 100,000 people to allow for local prep/youth sports to return.
As of Tuesday, March 2nd, the case-rate is 11.3 per 100,000 people, meaning local outdoor prep/youth sports have permission to compete.
“We had all of our plans set, we had it all ready to go. We were just waiting on that green light. We couldn't be more excited but happy for our kids to get this opportunity,” said Michael Walsh, athletic director of Shadow Hills High School.
“We’re seniors already so we didn’t know we were going to have a season so knowing we are going to have a season is pretty good,” said Sebastian Camarena, Coachella Valley High School football player.
Players were feeling the excitement of returning back to the field with a little bit of shock it was finally happening.
“It hasn’t hit me yet. Today when I have my pads on, my helmet, and I’m on a field at least on a practice. It’s going to hit. But right now it’s just exciting,” said Joshua Moore, Coachella Valley High School football player.
Teams will be required to get a COVID-19 test every week until Riverside County reaches the Red Tier in reopening.
This ends a 16-month pause from high school football competition due to the ongoing pandemic. Our last local high school football game was mid-November of 2019.
Thankfully, here in March of 2021, we will have a season, albeit shortened and in the Spring. This unprecedented season will consist of a five-game schedule that must end by April 17 per CIF-SS calendar guidelines. Additionally, CIF-SS says that teams must practice for 14 days prior to any games.
So, with all that, here's a projected timeline with a schedule already set for the Desert Empire League. This was put together by DEL athletic directors in advance, hoping a season would eventually happen. And it paid off.
PERMISSION, PAPERWORK, PRACTICE!
- Tuesday, March 2 - Approval to return to play
- Wednesday, March 3 - First practices
- Friday, March 5 - First practices in full pads
“Just the smiles on the faces of our kids as they’re coming back for practice and competition. Those are life long memories,” said Walsh.
WHAT TIME IS IT? GAME TIME!
- Friday, March 19 - GAME 1
- Palm Springs at Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage at Xavier Prep, Shadow Hills at La Quinta
- Friday, March 26 - GAME 2
- Palm Desert at Shadow Hills, La Quinta at Rancho Mirage, Xavier Prep at Palm Springs
- Friday, April 2 - GAME 3
- Palm Desert at Xavier Prep (Cook Street Rivalry), Shadow Hills at Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs at La Quinta (Mike Gates Game)
- Friday, April 9 - GAME 4
- Rancho Mirage at Palm Desert, Xavier Prep at La Quinta, Shadow Hills at Palm Springs
- Friday, April 16 - GAME 5
- La Quinta at Palm Desert (Flag Game), Rancho Mirage at Palm Springs (Ramon Road Rivalry), Xavier Prep at Shadow Hills
DEL 5-game schedule is confirmed. All games Friday at 7pm. @KESQ— Blake Arthur (@BlakeArthur24) March 2, 2021
3/19: GAME 1
PS at PD, RM at XP, SH at LQ
3/26: GAME 2
PD at SH, LQ at RM, XP at PS
4/2: GAME 3
PD at XP, SH at RM, PS at LQ
4/9: GAME 4
RM at PD, XP at LQ, SH at PS
4/16: GAME 5
LQ at PD, RM at PS, XP at SH
This format works particularly well for DEL schools since there are six teams, allowing for every team to play each other once. Some of the DEL coaches could not be more excited about getting the chance to compete.
"We have done more work over the past 12 months than ever to stay ready for this opportunity. We have five weeks of business ahead. I'll play anytime, anywhere for a chance display our hard work," said Shane McComb, head coach of Palm Desert high school football.
“So excited for the kids! Long time coming. Told the players to not dwell on what they’ve lost, but rather make the most out of the season that they have. Plenty of memories to be made," said Dan Murphy, head football coach at Palm Springs high school.
"I am very excited for these kids to be able to get back out on the field and play a game that they love. It has been a long time and I know that everyone in the valley is hungry. The next couple of weeks will be grueling for these kids, but I know that it is a pleasant change of pace from what we have been doing these past months," said Patrick Rivenes, head football coach at La Quinta high school.
In regards to Desert Valley League (DVL) schools, they have a meeting Wednesday to discuss their course of action.
However, as we saw late Monday night, MUSD approved a return to play for 29 Palms and Yucca Valley, meaning we could see others join soon.
Another note worth mentioning, sources tell KESQ that a 6-team league made up of Coachella Valley, Indio, Cathedral City, DHS, Yucca Valley, and 29 Palms is a legitimate possibility. The two DVL schools excluded from this are Desert Mirage and Banning who may not participate in playing football.
OTHER OUTDOOR SPORTS
Football is not the only sport. We know that. Other outdoor sports are also allowed to happen, with cross-country already having held a few local meets.
Here's a list of other sports and their corresponding return dates:
- Cross-Country - active since February 12, season ends March 27
- Girls tennis - dual meets allowed as of February 22
- Boys tennis - dual meets allowed as of March 1
- Soccer - approved for play on as of March 2
- Baseball - can start March 19
- Softball - can start March 19
- Swimming - dual meets allowed as of March 13
- Golf - dual meets allowed as of March 20
- Track and field - dual meets allowed as of March 20
Indoor sports, because of the closed environment, are at a natural disadvantage for returning to play. However, if cases continue to drop, we could see sports such as basketball, wrestling and volleyball be able to play.
There have also been some thoughts in trying to move these sports outdoors. We will keep you updated if any of that comes to fruition. Unfortunately though, as of now, indoor sports are not allowed until we're in the yellow tier.
CIF-SS Commissioners Update: March 3, 2021 pic.twitter.com/pjhRxE6QgF— CIF Southern Section (@CIFSS) March 2, 2021
You can also visit CIF-SS, the governing body for all high school sports in California's southern section.
Stay with KESQ News Channel 3 for the latest updates on this story as it continues to develop.