It’s Friday Night Mights and welcome to prep football in 2020 where the vision is cloudy at best.
While North County sizzles with summer heat, there’s much at stake with the fall high school athletic seasons.
In this era of COVID-19, the thought of teenagers playing is a head-scratcher and that’s particularly true with football.
The California Interscholastic Federation will announce on Monday the 2020-21 sports calendar, with most speculating the football season being pushed toward the spring.
Maybe by then, COVID-19 has retreated and prep sports, and life, can return to some form of normalcy.
The recent news is of rollbacks to shut-downs, not rollouts by quarterbacks. California Gov. Gavin Newsom reinstated the most stringent restrictions for the state since the initial lockdown to combat the virus some four months ago.
In North County, it’s unclear whether anyone huddles under the lights this fall and that’s a big deal. The level of play in the area is among the best in San Diego County, if not the state.
But when looking at numbers provided by San Diego County through July 13, North County hasn’t stiff-armed the disease which has claimed nearly 140,000 Americans.
In San Diego County, the death toll is racing toward 450.
Escondido’s 802 positive COVID-19 tests are the county’s fifth-highest. Oceanside shows 649 people infected, while Vista is at 481 and San Marcos at 406.
When divided by age-groups, the 10-19 category accounts for nearly 8 percent of the positive cases countywide. That’s the range of prep athletes — is whatever risk worth whatever reward?
“I just don’t see the fall season happening,” Solana Beach’s John Kentera said. “As much as I want it to.”
Few have the contacts in local prep sports, as Kentera. The 97.3 FM sports radio host calls prep football games each week and he’s knee-deep in everything revolving around them.
Kentera said the CIF San Diego Section is considering three scenarios: starting practices at month’s end leading to a 10-game regular season beginning in late August; an abbreviated slate in late September with just league games and a truncated playoff format; and games kicking off in January.
Some sports seem viable considering the demands of social distancing, like golf and tennis.
But football? The chances of avoiding contact is on par with the Chargers returning from Los Angeles.
In addition to the games, keeping players separated in weight rooms, practices, team meetings, classrooms (if schools are open) and at In-N-Out would require the touch of Houdini.
What’s not vanishing soon is COVID-19. Those wishing it away have a playbook that is void of science and data.
“If I was a parent, I would be concerned about my child playing,” Kentera said. “The bottom line of this whole thing is you’ve got to keep the student-athletes safe.”
Those in uniform aren’t the only ones at risk.
“Something that no one talks about are the coaches,” said Kentera, whose nickname, “Coach,” comes from him working with high school and college players. “A lot of these head coaches and assistants are older than 60 and they have health issues. That’s a lot to think about.”
The hard truth of what lies ahead is evident on the CIF San Diego Section web site calendar. There’s nothing listed save an Aug. 17 dentist appointment for someone and we hope he/she has been flossing, too.
Put all this together and there’s little reason to smile if a fan, or a participant of prep sports, and that’s so true for football. It’s likely to punt the season forward, with no guarantee it will ever be played.
Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him @jparis_sports.