High school football returns under new guidelines
WHITTIER – Who would have thought that to begin a high school football practice, the new normal would be taking the temperature of a player, the wearing of masks and staying six feet apart?
Well, it’s happening. However, after months of being away from each other, it seems that players don’t seem to mind the “new normal.”
They are just happy to finally be together, in a sense, and running those long-awaited drills.
With the new normal in place, the summer conditioning period has a lot of questions due to the Covid-19 precautions. Some wonder if the season will begin on time or even be delayed until January.
The Whittier Union High School District recently okayed the return to practice for its football teams: Cal High, Whittier and La Serna. Santa Fe is not practicing.
One very happy coach that is ecstatic to finally be able to get back on the field is Whittier High School’s Visko Ancich.
“It’s fantastic,” Ancich said. “We’ve been waiting. For most of us, all that time that we spend on the field during spring, during the winter workouts, we haven’t seen [the players], outside of a couple of Zoom calls and bumping into them in Uptown Whittier or something. It’s been good to say hi face-to-face and ask them how they’re doing, how their family is doing is a big difference.”
Ancich continued: “That’s been great and It’s been great to be on the field. I think everyone is eager to get out of the house and at the very least they get to hang out with their buddies. They get to test their endurance, things like that. Things that they haven’t been able to do with their teammates by their side. I’m happy we are out here.
“We are dealing with phase 1 and hopefully we can get cleared to go to phase 2, phase 3 and then have a regular season.”
La Serna athletic director Steve Hemenway said of the excitement he saw while out at the field: “There’s a good buzz out there on the field.
“We’ve followed all of the district and county guidelines. We’ve had an online clearance sheet and it’s been a lot of work to get the kids time to get their physicals.”
Both La Serna and Cal High coaches, Andy George and Louie Zamora, respectively, talked of the new normal out on the football fields.
Andy George: “It’s been a positive environment. The kids are excited and get to work alongside their teammates, being safe and seeing the kids smile. Football is a game of camaraderie and building relationships. As far as new normal, our coaches have done an incredible job. They’re working as if they’re going to play next week. The goal of these practices for me is to get the kids excited.”
Louie Zamora: “I told the guys the last time that we met, I didn’t know when I’d see them. They love being out there. They’re getting back in shape and were moving faster in the second week. On checking in, we’re really doing good with it. It’s not as bad as I thought and there’s a lot of things we might keep, the way we’re practicing, in groups, etc. The biggest thing is acclimating them to the weather. It’s been pretty good what our guys and coaches have been doing.”
Ancich added: “We have to have two practices because we can’t have too many kids on the field at the same time to maintain social distance. We’re in pods with nine kids and a coach and can only have a maximum of three groups on the football field.
“It feels like the workouts are limited because of limitations and they can’t do football drills, like we’re used to. We can’t do routes and can’t use a ball. It’s like a 1957 P.E. class. A good part is some of the kids are going to get conditioning in, flexibility and doing a lot of speed work. We’re losing a lot of interaction and stuff that helps the kids come together.”
The re-opening of sports has been divided into three phases, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
Phase 1 – Includes coaches and players screening, limitations of gatherings (groups of 10 only), facilities cleaning, athletic equipment and hydration rules.
Phase 2 – Screening, gatherings of 10 or more indoors and up to 50 outdoors and restrictions on facilities cleaning, athletic equipment and hydration rules.
Phase 3 – Screening, gatherings of up to 50 individuals (indoors or outdoors), facilities cleaning, athletic equipment and eventual opening of practices and competitions with numerous restrictions.
The complete list of guidelines may be found at the NFHS website (“Guidance for state associations to consider in reopening high school athletics and activities”).
The CIF Commissioner of Athletics for the Southern Section, Rob Wigod, recently sent a letter to high school principals and athletic directors regarding the current situation. July 20 is the target date that both the state and the Southern Section will make an announcement on sports going forward this year.
“The message I want to convey to all of you is that we are totally committed to having Fall, Winter and Spring sports during the 2020-21 school year,” Wigod wrote in the letter. “I want to remind you that the decisions to reopen our schools, and subsequently bring back athletic programs after they have started their academic year, will be made entirely by each local Superintendent/School Board from a public school district or each private school Head of School/School Board who have the authority to make those decisions.
“I am sure they will follow the recommendations of state and local health authorities in arriving at the decisions that are in the best interests of their students and school communities.”
Wigod went on to say and briefly talked about the teleconference that he had with the CIF State office and the 10 Section Commissioners recently.
“At this meeting, there was a lengthy discussion regarding the various scenarios that relate to Fall sports.
“…… there will be an announcement from the CIF State office addressing the status of Fall sports to be made no later than Monday, July 20.”
New Playoff System
In addition, if and when high school football gets going, throw a new playoff format into the equation. A new playoff system will be implemented at the end of the regular season based on a power rating assigned by CalPreps.com.
What they said:
Memo Tellechea, Whittier HS: “We’re just so excited to practice and all happy to be back together. It gives us a lot of hope, it’s really cool. This year, coach Ancich is on a different level. It’s totally different without athletic equipment. I’m excited. We’re all ready.”
Ethan Leon, Whittier: “Fantastic. It feels good to be out here and the best feeling to have. I’m just thankful every day. Wearing the mask is a little irritating, but I’m a little worried that they are going to cancel the season. Until they say something, I’m getting ready for the season. I’m looking forward to the juniors stepping up – a big junior class.”
Joseph Alvarez, Whittier: “It feels great to be out here, not knowing we’re going to have a season. I just love football and just want to play. I just hope for the best and we just want to win a lot.”
Vincent Ancich, Whittier: “We are easing our way into it (practice). He (dad Visko Ancich) is doing his summer school stuff, but it’s a lot different for him this year. He talks to me about the plays and it’s hard for all of these coaches. I think we all just want to get started. Just getting out there these past two weeks and talking to the coaches has been good.”
Vincent talked of his legendary grandfather, Marijon Ancich, if he would have been a coach in this time. “He would be frustrated, with all of his preparations. Everybody wants to get the pads on. But the unknown is probably the most frustrating part.”
Dylan Long, La Serna: “Most people say that conditioning isn’t a lot of fun, but this was this time. It was pretty awesome. I was bummed that it was social distance, but it was still a lot of fun. If you didn’t know it was football, you wouldn’t know what was going on. Everyone on the field doesn’t know what’s going on (current situation on playing). It’ll be interesting on what will be said on July 20th.”
Jake George, La Serna: “It was cool seeing all of the guys. It was very bizarre, but that’s what we have to do. I just want to play. The workout was cardio, running and pushups and obviously social distancing.
It was encouraging and I just have to wait for July 20th.”