The CIF Southern Section announced Tuesday it was canceling fall sports playoffs and championships for football, girls’ volleyball, water polo and cross-country because of continuing coronavirus restrictions imposed by the California Department of Public Health and county health officials.
The decision leaves it up to the section’s 559 individual schools how to proceed. Currently, all counties in Southern California are in the state’s purple tier, signifying widespread coronavirus infections. The only sports cleared to begin Jan. 25 are track and field, cross-country, golf and tennis. But stay-at-home orders have to be lifted to proceed. Canceling playoffs gives more time for schools to see if there’s improvement in their county.
Football is in the orange tier but that didn’t stop two private schools from holding football games with school equipment last week in Orange County in violation of the state guidelines.
Additional private schools are expected to follow in the coming weeks. The powerful Trinity League, made up of Bellflower St. John Bosco, Santa Ana Mater Dei, Anaheim Servite, Orange Lutheran, San Juan Capistrano JSerra and Santa Margarita, plans to begin three weeks of practice March 1 and start playing games March 20, with its season ending April 17. It remains to be seen if league members would proceed without permission from Orange County health officials.
The Mission League intends to follow Los Angeles County health guidelines, according to La Canada Flintridge St. Francis athletic director Matt Luderer.
Mission League coordinator Stephanie Contreras said plans are being drawn up to use campuses for cross-country courses for boys and girls dual meets if permits to use parks continue to be unavailable.
Public schools are expected to continue following the state guidelines because of liability and public health concerns.
Youth sports competitions have been on hold in California for 10 months, but a growing number of club competitions took place in recent weeks at private facilities in basketball, volleyball, football and baseball. County health officials have done little to punish violators other than posting signs.
The City Section is expected to announce a similar end to its fall sports playoffs later Tuesday. The majority of schools in the City Section are from the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has not opened campuses for instruction and only briefly allowed schools to condition in November before shutting down workouts because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The City Section would like to keep its cross-country championship because its athletes are from the same district, lessening transportation issues. But getting LAUSD to approve students to compete while not attending classes on campus remains an obstacle.
Despite the current bleak outlook, Studio City Harvard-Westlake head of athletics Terry Barnum insists hope is not lost for fall athletes. His school intends to prepare to play football whenever the guidelines allow until April 17 arrives even if that means playing a single game.
“We’re going to be aggressive in following those guidelines,” he said.
Gardena Serra football coach Scott Altenberg said, “We think there’s got to be a way to do this safely. We’re committed to exhausting everything to get these kids on the field. We’re not going to go rogue.”