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Local high school sports, specifically football, on brink of return with recent drop in cases

According to the latest coronavirus case numbers in Riverside County, local sports could be returning very soon.

As we reported last week, once case numbers are 14 or less per 100,000 people, sports are allowed to start. As of Tuesday, Feb. 23, Riverside County is at 16.6 cases, just 2.6 cases shy of reaching the threshold that would allow a return to play.

Riverside County released this statement on Tuesday:

Moderate- and high-contact sports, including soccer, football, baseball, cheer and water polo, may soon resume in Riverside County if the county’s case rate continues to decline.

The state issued new sports guidance last week allowing certain moderate- and high-contact sports to begin in counties with an adjusted case rate of 14 cases or fewer per 100,000 residents. This week, Riverside County’s adjusted case rate is 16. The case rate is updated every Tuesday and posted online at www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus.

“Physical activity is so important to our community’s wellbeing, especially participating in sports,” said Board Chair Karen Spiegel, Second District Supervisor. “Our children have sacrificed much of their normal lives throughout this pandemic. This is welcomed news that our kids will soon be able to return to the sport teams that mean so much to them.”

The new guidance also applies to adult recreational sports teams, in addition to youth sports. Athletic programs must obtain consent by the parents or caregivers on the risks of transmission by participating in the sport. In addition, weekly COVID-19 testing for all players and coaches is required for specific groups. Tests and results must be available within 24 hours of competitions.

Competitions between different teams will be allowed if both teams are within Riverside County, or a neighboring county that also has an adjusted case rate of 14 or less where that sport is also permitted. Teams are only allowed to play one game per day.

Youth sports may include observers who are immediate household members during practice and competition. Physical distancing and face coverings must be maintained. Spectators are not permitted for adult sports at this time.

This is specifically positive news for high school football teams as a 5-game season seems more likely, at the very least, possible.

The CIF-SS declared the high school football season must end by Saturday, April 17. Additionally, teams must practice for 14 days prior to any games.

Based on the timeline, if Riverside County gets to 14 or less cases per 100k people by next week, we could see our first local football game on Friday, March 19.

Here's a potential timeline for high school football:

Tuesday, March 2 - Approval to begin play if 14 cases or less (woo-hoo!)

Friday, March 5 - First full practice

Friday, March 19 - Game 1 of 5-week schedule

Friday, March 26 - Game 2 of 5-week schedule

Friday, April 2 - Game 3 of 5-week schedule

Friday, April 9 - Game 5 of 5-week schedule

Friday, April 16 - Game 5 of 5-week schedule

This works particularly well for DEL schools since there are six teams. Every team can play each other once in this format. As for DVL schools, we will see what is decided since their league is compiled of 8 teams.

Now, if the case rate doesn't drop low enough by next week (14 cases or less per 100k people in Riverside County) then the timeline gets pushed back, resulting in what would then be a 4-week schedule, opposed to the suggested 5-week schedule.

We may have a high school football season after all. And if we do, it would be the first time since November of 2019, the last time we had prep pigskin being played in our desert.

Stay with KESQ News Channel 3 for the latest on this developing story.

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Blake Arthur

Sports Director Blake Arthur joined the KESQ/CBS Local 2 team in August of 2015. Learn more about Blake here.

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