Football’s back. 

Anxiously awaiting this past Tuesday’s county health department numbers — hoping for a score under 14 cases per 100,000 — it’s time to start back up with all sports. 

As of Friday, Feb. 26, the state greenlighted San Bernardino County to resume high-contact and moderate-contact sports, under state guidelines.

Keep checking in, folks. Some schools weren’t as busy during the down time. Some schools might opt out of certain league games. 

Example: La Verne Damien and Upland, two of the Baseline League’s five teams, won’t be playing Chino Hills, Etiwanda or Rancho Cucamonga this season. 

Damien? One of their games will be against Aquinas (March 26). The defending champion Falcons also have small school powerhouse Lancaster Paraclete on their schedule as well. 

More to come, obviously. 

** ** ** 

Cassandra Lacey went from being an NCAA Division III All-West Region selection to an assistant coach at the University of Redlands in a mere matter of months. 

You figure that longtime Lady Bulldogs’ coach Rich Murphy probably had her in mind for that spot the minute she stepped onto the floor at Currier Gymnasium for the first time as a 2016 first-year player fresh off the Phelan Serrano High campus. 

** ** ** 

There was longtime varsity coach Bill Berich, plus JV coach Jim Simpson, and veteran assistant Mike Aranda. 

The way onetime Redlands East Valley hoops star Kim Aiken Jr. sees things, he learned something from each man. Even longtime freshman coach Ben Myers, with whom Aiken averaged 18 points on REV’s ninth-grade team, had plenty of insights. 

Eastern Washington University (EWU) coaches call him “Draymond,” as in Golden Warriors’ front court defensive whiz Draymond Green. The 6-10 Green is known for playing hard. For Aiken, it’s further motivation. 

It’s all headed for this: A spot in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, usually referred to as March Madness. 

Here’s how Aiken went about business during his prep days: 

There were those tutoring sessions with University of Redlands instructors — statistics and Spanish. He lived close to the UofR campus. 

Those long-ago REV days were spent in class, playing Inland Empire Basketball Program (coaches: Julius Patterson and Keith Howard) — two summer trips to Las Vegas, plus spring tournaments, not to mention Showcase games. 

Think it doesn’t hurt to venture from Cheney, Wash. over to nearby Spokane? Some open play. A little gym time with the Zags? It’s where No. 1-ranked Gonzaga University holds court, literally. Open court for basketball players. 

Aiken usually finds himself in the mix against guys like Corey Kispert. 

That’s probably a story you won’t see in EWU’s prep for March Madness. 

** ** ** 

More fallout from COVID-19? The prep baseball wars could’ve been about as red-hot as anything you’d want to see, especially between fully loaded Citrus Valley and Yucaipa teams. 

Catcher Jared Snyder, for instance, is verbally committed to Long Beach State. 

Some of his Citrus Valley teammates, like Riley Hunsaker (USC), Josh Torres (UC Santa Barbara), who are other verbals. 

Senior Matt Mecate, meanwhile, will be an enemy of Cal State San Bernardino, having committed to CCAA rival Cal State Dominguez Hills. 

Mecate? Mecate? Where do I know that name from? 

Chris Mecate? The wrestler? 

Yucaipa, meanwhile, has guys tabbed for USC, Cal State Fullerton, Arizona, Nevada-Las Vegas … should I go on? 

Ugggh. What bad timing for that COVID thing, huh? 

Just hope. Just pray. Just shout loud on how badly we want to see a return to spring sports. Hoping nothing gets in the way. 

** ** ** 

From incoming Sports Editor John Murphy: 

Pete Smolin, the former head football coach at Citrus Valley, has been picked up in Banning as its new head coach. 

That’s a tough community to coach in — past incidents of parental interference, low level support, plus a school district that doesn’t often communicate. That’s a school that could take off in just about any sport with the right mixture of educational brilliance and classy parents. 

Parents, in some respects, just aren’t enough of a presence in Banning. If they were, they’d have had sixth period PE. That’s a necessary ingredient for any sport. 

Past Banning football coaches needed it because athletes would wander away by post-school practice times. 

Ask ex-Terrier John Stockham, who coached there for years (still teaches English).  

Ask Quasand Lewis Jr., the most recent coach, who had Banning in the playoffs all three of his seasons. 

A sixth period PE class would’ve likely ensured their presence at practice. That kind of discipline would’ve shot the Broncos into another stratosphere. 

Lots of great players out of Banning — NFL draftees Derron Smith and Washington Redskins’ Super Bowl safety Alvin Walton, to name just a couple. 

Smolin, incidentally, landed at the University of Redlands as running backs coach after his Blackhawks’ days. 

** ** ** 

From the Instagram files: 

Jessica Collins, a senior goalkeeper at Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos, is now on board at Cal State San Bernardino. While backing the Los Osos defense, during her junior season, that is, the Lady Grizzlies bounced their way to an 11-7-3 record. 

That area down there is a hotbed for soccer. Etiwanda. Upland. Chino Hills. Rancho Cucamonga. Every match is low-scoring. Lots of defense. Need for strong goalie play. 

I’m counting 22 goals surrendered on her watch over 21 matches — five shutouts. 

Last season — back in the days when prep sports was going strong — she played a part in the Lady Grizzlies’ playoff shootout win over Aliso Niguel before Long Beach Poly scored one on her for a 1-0 second round triumph. 

Footnote: Returning keeper Carly Luna was scheduled to return for her senior season at Cal State. 

** ** ** 

No announcement yet from the Inland Empire Conference, which includes San Bernardino Valley College, but the South Coast League (Mt. San Antonio, Long Beach CC, El Camino, etc.) has canceled its spring sports schedule. 

It’s too much for the JUCO level. Medics on those campuses must get medical histories for all athletes, increase the equipment needed to provide healthy safeguards … and you can go on forever. 

JUCO athletics don’t have the financial support necessary to make it all happen.

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