There are, at last check, 10 games on Citrus Valley High School’s football schedule when prep play comes to life after the winter holidays.
In these COVID-19 times, that amounts to a cheerful outlook.
“Think about that,” said Boyd Lium, the athletic director on that campus. “The Pac 12 is going to seven games. Other states [high school games] are on hold right now because if someone gets COVID, they’ve got to test.”
Lium, who is like everyone else in the pandemic-crazed world of education, sports and beyond, is awaiting word.
Yes, there are scheduled games beginning in January.
There has yet to be clearance, however, from state government leaders on whether or not those games can be played.
“Aren’t we still at the purple stage?” asked San Gorgonio High’s Athletic Director Matt Maeda. (See graph page 3)
Friday, Sept. 25, San Bernardino Unified and Redlands Unified schools were on a different pathway to beginning athletic workouts.
By Oct. 5, Redlands Unified school officials had cleared its athletes to begin conditioning for its January-based sports.
San Bernardino Unified, as of last week, still wasn’t in position to clear its athletes for any kind of participation.
Said Maeda: “We don’t have a go time yet.”
Redlands was granted a waiver to open its conditioning. San Bernardino Unified has yet to reach its red tier goal.
Don’t get excited, though, Redlands.
Still to come is clearance to begin sharing equipment, skill drills (in groups of 10) while comporting to testing protocol that begins with taking temperatures ⎯ athletes, coaches, team managers and anyone else connected with an athletic program.
“The state isn’t even allowing us to have competition yet,” said Lium. “Right now, though, I’m pumped to have kids back on campus.”
RUSD cleared its athletes for an Oct. 1 return to conditioning. Because of that mid-week date, a Thursday, Lium said that school officials opted to begin on Monday, Oct. 5.
While remaining optimistic, athletic directors everywhere are still in cautionary mode.
If students don’t return to campus, what makes anyone believe athletes will be able to compete?
“That,” said Maeda, “is a real question.”
Noting that a hybrid form of education ⎯ part attending school, part distance-learning ⎯ both Maeda and Lium admit competition athletics might be in jeopardy.
Purple stage, considered the most stringent in California’s reopening framework, seems content to keep San Bernardino’s schools on lockdown. To reach that red level, COVID-19 cases must trickle downward to a percentage ⎯ and remain that way for one week.
San Bernardino-based schools could then begin conditioning.
Students, meanwhile, are distance-learning at all age levels, at least in public schools.
Prep sports were canceled in the early stages of Spring season.
Citrus Valley was quickly out to a strong start in both baseball and softball, plus track & field.
Fast forward to Fall sports, which was wiped out in early summer months. By June, CIF-Southern Section officials had formed a complete calendar for Fall, Winter and Spring sports. Those three seasons of athletics were crammed into a two-season calendar January through May.
Maeda quickly sized up what’s needed:
* Skills practicing.
* Permission to compete.
Optimistic? “I want to say, ‘Yes,’” he said.
“We need the numbers to change. My only real fear is that we’ve done all this work (scheduling, prepping for return to campus, organizing all protocols) and we don’t see the numbers we need.”
Said Lium: “It wears on those kids.”
Even in his own home, Lium sees his daughter, Abigail, a Citrus Valley soccer and volleyball player, and his son, Brockton, who plays football for the Blackhawks, nerves are, perhaps, frayed.
“Every day, they’re telling me, ‘Get us playing, Dad.’ They’re on the same roller-coaster ride everyone else is.
“On days they’re down, I’ve got to be up.”
Football, of course, is on everyone’s mind.
Aquinas (12-3) is defending CIF Division 5 champion and a state runner-up.
San Gorgonio (9-3) is back from a playoff season.
Redlands (2-8), which must rebound from the loss of transferring QB Trent Young to Cajon, and Redlands East Valley (0-10) didn’t come close to reaching the 2019 playoffs. Lots to improve on with a pair of second-year coaches, Redlands’ Mike McFarland and REV’s Rich Lunsford.
Citrus Valley (9-3) seems on a roll with third-year coach Kurt Bruich.
Lium, perhaps, reflects his district’s football sentiments: “We’ve got 10 games on our books and a scrimmage. That’s as normal as we can make it.”
Maeda and Lium have both described coaches on their campuses as “eager,” “ready to go,” and “full of questions.”
One week, said Lium, “[Citrus Valley volleyball coach] Tina [Raddish] is pessimistic. The next week, she’s fired up.”
Bruich “is all pumped up and ready to go.”
Everything is on hold, however, until COVID-19 numbers, and possibly a vaccine, would vastly improve lifestyles.
RUSD, said Lium, “will be the guinea pigs.”
Practice protocols, sanitation stations, touchless temperature checks are all on display.
In December, said Lium, “Our [school] board is going to have to make a decision.”