Local high school football teams got the COVID-19 ranking they needed to start full workouts on Tuesday.
Friday Night Lights are expected to start shining again on March 19 in an abbreviated, five-game schedule.
“After three years of not playing a home football game on campus, the players and coaches are elated to finally get the chance to play in Peabody Stadium,” Santa Barbara High athletic director Todd Heil said.
“Our athletes and coaches are excited and ready to go,” chimed in San Marcos A.D. Abe Jahadhmy.
Local teams worked out in helmets for the first time on Tuesday and will be in full pads by Friday,
The prospects for the CIF’s high-contact, outdoor sports of football, soccer and water polo brightened last month after the California Department of Public Health altered its return-to-play guidelines. Those sports could begin playing when their county had an adjusted COVID-19 case rate of less than 14 per 100,000.
Santa Barbara County announced on Tuesday that its case rate had dropped to 13.0. Ventura County’s case rate of 10.6 also met the guidelines, which will enable both Bishop Diego and Carpinteria to compete in their leagues, as well.
Ventura County announced on Tuesday that it would allow schools from other counties to compete against their teams.
“Our community is absolutely ecstatic,” said Bishop Diego A.D. Aaron Skinner, whose Cardinals compete in the Camino League. “To be able to have our student-athletes back competing in the sports that they love will be an absolute joy to watch.”
The Cardinals are tentatively scheduled to open their season against St. Bonaventure at Santa Barbara City College’s La Playa Stadium on March 19. They will also be at home on March 26 against Camarillo before playing at Moorpark on April 2. They have a bye week on April 9 and will then complete their season at Newbury Park on April 16.
The CIF has decided to not sanction playoff games this year.
Skinner said Bishop tried unsuccessfully to schedule a non-league contest against teams from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
“The only options for our bye week at this point would be against a school in Ventura County, if available, or in Kern County,” he said.
Carpinteria competes against four Ventura County schools in the Citrus Coast League. The Warriors are scheduled to open their season at home against Fillmore on March 19, travel to Nordhoff on March 26, return home to play Hueneme on April 2, and complete their league schedule at Santa Paula on April 9.
“Students and coaches are excited for the opportunity,” Carpinteria A.D. Pat Cooney said. “They have been working toward the goal of returning to competition since September and deserve the chance to play.”
The Channel League — which consists of Santa Barbara, San Marcos, Dos Pueblos, Santa Ynez, Lompoc and Cabrillo — is still working on its football and water polo schedules.
“We still need to make some tweaks to it,” Jahadhmy said.
Heil noted that Channel League schools also need to work with Santa Barbara County Public Health and the Santa Barbara Unified School District “for necessary protocols for hosting contests.”
Santa Barbara County schools would need to test players and coaches for football and water polo games unless the adjusted case rate drops below 7 by the time the season starts.
“We need to get testing dialed in and begin to manage the logistics of traveling and bringing people back on campus for contests,” Cooney said.
Skinner said it’s important for everyone to keep their guards up when it comes to the coronavirus.
“We have constantly communicated that to our athletes,” he said. “But now, more than ever, our community members need to do their part to help keep the numbers down and not put our teams in jeopardy of losing out on competitions due to COVID.”