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Fall sports postponed for California high schools
football practice
Players in fall sports had been allowed to begin outside conditioning drills in June, but that was canceled last week because of Stanislaus County’s rising coronavirus case numbers. On Monday, the California Interscholastic Federation announced a pushed back fall sports schedule, with football not slated to begin until January 2021 (Journal file photo).

The governing body in charge of high school sports throughout the state announced on Monday that the start of the fall season will be pushed back several months due to coronavirus concerns.

Turlock Unified School District teams play within the Sac-Joaquin Section — one of 10 sections which collaborated with the California Interscholastic Federation to determine that education-based athletics for the 2020-2021 school year will begin with a modified season of sport schedule. TUSD’s fall sports, including cross country, water polo and volleyball, will begin playing games in late December, while football games are scheduled to begin Jan. 8.

“We know that today’s CIF announcement was disappointing for our student-athletes and coaches, but the decision was not surprising given the current circumstances,” Pitman High School athletic director Dave Walls, who serves as AD Rep for the SJS, said. “The announcement gives us something on paper to work with which is a positive step in the right direction of getting our athletes back on the fields when it is safe to do so.  We have a lot of work to do this fall as we address issues related to the new sports calendar, transportation availability, access to facilities, and our multi-sport athletes.  Spring will be a busy time but we are excited about the prospect of returning to some sense of normalcy in these unpredictable times.”

While all sports will have full regular seasons, some — including football — will see a shortened playoff window. Football playoffs have been shortened to three weeks and will now feature eight teams rather than 12.

According to the calendar released by the CIF on Monday, some fall sports will still be in season through March 20 when others like boys and girls soccer begin March 1. Basketball is scheduled to begin March 9, while spring sports like softball, golf and track begin playing games in late March with playoffs ending in mid- to late-June.

“It is going to take some work putting together schedules and transportation, but we are dedicated to our athletes and will do our best based on what was announced today,” said Denair High School athletic director Melissa Treadwell.

For DHS varsity football coach Anthony Armas, the news didn’t come as a shock. He told his players about the season being pushed back via a Google Hangouts video chat, he said.

“I think most of us thought that sports would be pushed back,” Armas said. “It’s not a huge surprise, but it’s definitely going to be different. But we've been dealing with ‘different’ for four months now. We’ll figure it out.”

“There is no easy answer,” added DHS volleyball coach Christy North.

Players in fall sports, plus cheerleaders, had been allowed to begin outside conditioning drills in June with appropriate social distancing, but that was canceled last week because of Stanislaus County’s rising coronavirus case numbers.

Also Monday, the CIF also suspended bylaws for this school year that prohibit students from participating on private traveling clubs squads while they play for their high school teams.