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September 25, 2021

Covid protocols have football coaches calling audibles

San Lorenzo Valley High canceled its season opener against George Washington High after players and coaches on the Cougars’ team had to quarantine for 10 days.

They’ll have to skip another game this week as members of that same group continue to isolate themselves after they came in close contact with classmates with Covid-19.   

“We’ve been hit with some speed bumps,” SLV coach Andrew Milich said. “We’re trying to deal with them accordingly. Right now as of this week, we’re not playing.”   

The good news is that Los Altos High agreed to switch this week’s game to Oct. 21, which would’ve been a bye week for both teams.

“We got hit early with this Covid thing. It took players away and it took half of our coaches away,” Milich said.

Milich said it was a difficult transition but coaches are returning. He mentioned that the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District recently updated its Covid-19 protocols.

“We’re going to be playing by the same rules as everybody else now,” he said.

Milich said the students in the cohorts who are exposed are tested twice a week. That also includes any of the coaching staff that is unvaccinated. 

Milich said he’s doing everything in his power to keep the players’ heads up and reminding them that this game will be played in the future.

“Stay ready, don’t get ready,” he said. “It doesn’t matter when our next game is, we’re going to keep moving forward together.”

Milich said if they don’t have the personnel that they need to play a game, they won’t do it. He’s also doing his best to communicate with the team and assuring the players and parents that this is just an obstacle they’ll overcome.

“Every school, every student is dealing with this right now but we’re going to get through it,” he said.  

Last week was a rollercoaster ride for St. Francis High football coach John Ausman. 

A day before their season opener against King City High on Aug. 27, he broke the news to the team that the game would be postponed. 

The excitement came back when they were told it was back on for Monday, but then the anxiousness kicked in as they waited until 12:30pm that day to get the official green light.

“You can get as frustrated as you want but you really don’t dictate much in your small world,” he said. “Our small world is Sharks football and I think we realized that last Thursday.”

The school was notified on Aug. 26 by Santa Cruz County Public Health that some student-athletes may have been exposed to football players from Watsonville High who tested positive for Covid-19.

So far, they are cleared to play Saturday’s game against Watsonville High at Cabrillo College at 7:30pm.

“Call me tomorrow, that might change,” Ausman said jokingly. “Never take for granted the things you enjoy doing.”

It has been an interesting start to the 2021 football season. Games have been moved around because of Covid-19, and air quality concerns stemming from the ongoing fires around the state. 

San Benito High was up 10-0 against Santa Teresa High at halftime when the team was notified that administrators had decided to call the game due to poor air quality.

Salinas High also backed out of their contest against Placer High of Auburn because of the poor air quality.

In addition, a referee shortage forced Monte Vista Christian and North Monterey County High to play Thursday, instead of Friday.

Condors coach Juan Cuevas said it’s crazy times that we’re living in. He said that everyone is excited to see the students are back in school, and his players are pumped to get the season going after not suiting up for the shortened Covid-19 spring season.

“As coaches, we tend to be control freaks, we want to know the answer to everything,” he said. “But on this whole Covid stuff and other things like the smoke, it’s not up to us. It’s whatever happens, happens.”

NMC is scheduled to play at Pajaro Valley High on Saturday at 2pm. Cuevas said he has to cross his fingers every day that he doesn’t have a kid in a class that comes into close contact with someone who has Covid-19.

Cuevas told his coaches that they dodged some bullets earlier this season. They had a couple of players that had to quarantine for 10 days before getting cleared to practice.

“We’ve been dodging these bullets but I can’t help to think it’s going to bite us in the you know what real soon,” he said.

And with all of these issues still arising, the California Interscholastic Federation announced that games can now be rescheduled on Sunday if they are affected by Covid-19 or poor air quality.

Milich said it’s been heartbreaking to tell the players they can’t be on campus because of Covid-19 and that they deserve to get a game under their belt.

The Cougars were blessed to have this week’s contest against Los Altos moved to a different date, but they do have one cancellation too many this season. 

SLV is scheduled to play Richmond High on Sept. 10 at 7pm. Milich hopes to make it work regardless of who they have available. 

“We’re just trying to fill our schedule and get these kids on board and playing,” he said. 

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