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Orange County All-Star Classic high school football game could be played in May

La Habra's Kristopher Koontz reels in a long pass during the Orange County North vs. South All-Star Classic on Jan. 25.
La Habra’s Kristopher Koontz reels in a long pass for a first down during the Orange County North vs. South All-Star Classic at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Jan. 25.
(Drew A. Kelley)

The Orange County North vs. South All-Star Classic high school football game could be played in May, Costa Mesa United Vice President Ron Amburgey said Wednesday.

Costa Mesa United, a nonprofit group that champions and has contributed more than $1.2 million for youth sports in Costa Mesa since 2005, is the organizer of the Orange County All-Star Classic. The showcase had traditionally been held in the summer before it came under Costa Mesa United’s control in 2017.

Costa Mesa United President Gordon Bowley said the organization had a discussion of a May or June date for the competition at a recent board meeting, but no firm plan is in place, owing to the fluidity of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on sporting events.

The virus resulted in the cancellation of numerous high school all-star competitions for the class of 2020 during the spring and summer.

Adjustments have been made in the hopes that conditions may allow for a regular season and playoffs to occur under a modified calendar. For football, the CIF Southern Section is scheduled to permit teams to practice beginning Dec. 14.

Rob Wigod reports during Thursday’s virtual CIF Southern Section meeting that high school sports would start in mid-December, as scheduled.

Section championships would take place April 9-10, and state championships would be held April 16-17, should conditions allow for the season to go on as scheduled.

Costa Mesa United hosted the 61st annual Orange County All-Star Classic at Orange Coast College on Jan. 25, following the conclusion of the season.

“We did it quick last year because the players were still in shape,” Bowley said. “We got a better response because the longer the players don’t play, the less shape they’re in, and then they’re vulnerable for injury.”

Corona del Mar football coach Dan O’Shea said he believes that having the all-star game close to the end of the season helps to make the event a successful one.

“I could not recommend it enough that they play it as close to the end of the season as possible, not only for the kids being in shape, but I think interest in the game is more a focus at that point,” O’Shea said. “I think it gets lost in the summer, and by the time these kids graduate school and are in summer, most of them are now focused on going to college and having fun during the summer and practicing.”

Should fans not be allowed to attend the game, Bowley said the organization is looking at other ways to make the event a productive experience for the players.

“We would make it a scouts football game,” Bowley said. “We would get all the scouts from the major university leagues like the Pac-12 and the others and ask the scouts to come down and watch the kids, and that would be productive for the kids, as well as the scouts. We could probably get a minimum of 50 scouts to come in from the teams and have a look at these kids.”

In an all-star game, the number of snaps for an individual to showcase their talents could be limited, especially at a position group with limited spots like quarterback. O’Shea had an idea for getting the athletes exposure beyond the game itself.

“I think if they advertised it and then make the practices available for the recruiters or coaches to attend, that would be perfect,” O’Shea said.

At the state level, the CIF is taking measures to give high school athletes an opportunity to participate in all-star events despite changes in the sports calendar necessitated by the virus.

CIF executive director Ron Nocetti issued a notice on Oct. 15 stating that graduating seniors could compete in high school all-star games prior to the last section or state contest in their sport for the current school year only.

Local school districts and schools, leagues and CIF sections maintain the right to formulate more restrictive rules than the guidance provided by the CIF State office.

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