The newest sport for high school athletic directors is a complicated game called football rescheduling:
“The whole thing has become a Rubik’s Cube,” Cabrillo A.D. Gary West said, referring to the 3-D combination puzzle that was popularized during the 1980s, “and I wasn’t a big fan of that game.”
The COVID-19 pandemic recently forced the California Interscholastic Federation to postpone its fall sports season, moving the start of football season by more than four months. Some schools such as Dos Pueblos and Carpinteria were able to transfer their football schedules with ease, but most weren’t so lucky.
Santa Barbara High, which hasn’t played a game at Peabody Stadium since Oct. 7, 2016, is still looking for an opponent for its Jan. 8 opener— which will also be its first game at the newly reconstructed facility.
“Our previously scheduled opponent has had some travel restrictions put on them from their administration,” Dons’ A.D. Todd Heil said.
He’s searching far and wide for a replacement and has even reached out to schools in the CIF’s Los Angeles City Section. If he fails to find an opponent, Santa Barbara’s first two games would be on the road, at Righetti and then San Marcos, before it finally unveils the new Peabody Stadium on Jan. 29 against Ventura.
The Jan. 22 Big Game against the Royals, who have been moved from the Channel League to the Pacific View League, will be the first non-conference meeting between the two arch-rivals since the early 1970s.
Heil did receive a stroke of luck in solving the new puzzle of football scheduling: “Our Week Zero game at Saugus has been moved to Week Five (Feb. 5) since we both had a bye that week,” he said.
The CIF-Southern Section’s original fall calendar allowed schools to schedule their 10 football games during an 11-week span. But its new January-to-March calendar is just 10 weeks long with no byes, which effectively lops off the Week Zero games that had been originally scheduled for Aug. 21.
The issue was further complicated by the decision of the CIF-Central Section, which includes schools from Santa Maria as well as San Luis Obispo County, to stick with an 11-week calendar.
“We have two Central Section teams on our schedule — Nipomo and Santa Maria – and we’d like to keep them,” Cabrillo’s West said. “We want to stay as local as possible and play someone that we can be competitive with.
“Nipomo had Santa Ynez as their Week Zero. But now Santa Ynez can’t play on Week Zero, and we had Nipomo as our Week One. It became a real mess.”
Some maneuvering, however, allowed Cabrillo to keep Nipomo for its Jan. 8 opener on the new turf field at Lompoc’s Huyck Stadium. Lompoc High did have to make the concession of moving its home opener against Paso Robles to Thursday, Jan. 7.
Santa Ynez will open its season at Fillmore before playing on its own new turf field on Jan. 15 against Nordhoff.
“We were able to work with Santa Maria and Nipomo to lock in our games with them, so everything worked out,” Pirates’ athletic director Ashley Coelho said.
Lompoc A.D. Claudia Terrones helped Santa Barbara solve part of its own scheduling puzzle.
“We moved our Righetti game to Week Three (Jan. 22), and now play Cabrillo on Week Two (Jan. 15) so Santa Barbara could play Righetti Week Two,” she said.
San Marcos A.D. Abe Jahadhmy, like Santa Barbara’s Heil, is still in need of a Week One opponent.
“We lost Week Zero versus Santa Paula and Week One versus Santa Maria,” said Jahadhmy, noting the mismatching calendars of the Southern and Central sections.
He did get one scheduling break, however.
“By luck, we had a wrong week scheduled for Nordhoff,” Jahadhmy said. “As a result, we are playing them on our bye week Jan. 29. This frees up Jan. 15 and we were able to add Santa Maria on that date.
“All we now need is Week One.”
Dos Pueblos’ first two games are at Nordhoff and Ventura. It will play its home opener at Scott O’Leary Stadium against Buena on Jan. 22. The Chargers’ game against rival San Marcos, a nonleague contest like the Big Game, will be played on Feb. 5 at Warkentin Family Stadium.
Carpinteria, a member of the Citrus Coast League, is tentatively set to open its season at Brentwood on Jan. 8 before playing its home opener against Mary Star of the Sea on Jan. 15.
“We are confirming with our non-league opponents,” athletic director Pat Cooney said. “We have a number of non-league opponents that are out of the county so there may be some adjustments.”
Aaron Skinner, who took over as Bishop Diego’s A.D. on July 1, had a schedule in need of one of the biggest makeovers.
“We were left having to shuffle and reschedule four games due to the changes,” he said.
The last domino to fall — a road game to Bakersfield’s Garces Memorial that was knocked out by Paraclete— was actually put back into place late this week.
“Paraclete’s Week Zero opponent needed a Week Two,” Skinner said. “Paraclete asked if Garces still needed it and they did, so Paraclete switched to their original Week Zero and we added Garces back on.”
The Cardinals will play their Jan. 8 opener at home against Righetti — its original Week Zero opponent. Righetti, a Central Section power, is ironically the only Santa Barbara County opponent on the Cardinals’ schedule.
“We didn’t want to lose our only game that was played against a local school, especially given the recommendations from the NFHS (to limit travel),” Skinner said.
Bishop will also travel to play Redondo Union on Jan. 22 before returning home for games against Palm Desert and then Pacifica.
Skinner had originally scheduled Reno’s Galena High for Week Five, but Nevada won’t start its football season until February,
“This allowed us to look for a Week Five opponent and we were fortunate to be able to schedule a tough, local game versus reigning CIF State (Division 2A) champion Pacifica,” he said.
The Cardinals will open Camino League play against St. Bonaventure in another home game on Feb. 12.
“At the end of the day, it all worked out very well, and we couldn’t be happier with the schedule that we have set,” Skinner said.