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High School Sports

Big question at City Section football coaches meeting: What’s happening at Narbonne?

City Section football coaches sit in the Fairfax High auditorium, with many empty seats, for a meeting.
City Section football coaches met in Fairfax High auditorium Saturday.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Dozens of City Section football coaches arrived at the Fairfax High auditorium on Saturday morning for their annual review of rules and regulations for the upcoming season, and one issue on the minds of many was what’s happening with Narbonne’s football program.

The five-time defending City Section champions still don’t know when coach Manuel Douglas will be allowed to return. He has been reassigned by the Los Angeles Unified School District since last May as the district investigates an allegation of academic fraud at the school. As of Friday, an LAUSD spokeswoman said there was no update on the investigation or Douglas’ status.

Football practice officially begins Monday, and Narbonne interim coach Joe Aguirre said he and the Gaucho assistants will continue to run the program in Douglas’ absence.

“I’ve been spending the last week getting kids’ paperwork in and kids’ physicals,” Aguirre said. “He’s been hands off letting us do things until he’s back. We don’t get updates. This is all LAUSD and they don’t share.”

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Narbonne has been able to keep most of its players despite the uncertainty surrounding the program, Aguirre said.

“It shows how much the kids are sticking together,” said Aguirre, who is a teacher at Narbonne and former defensive coordinator.

If the district were to find potential violations, the team could face City Section sanctions. LAUSD could also clear the program but no one seems to know when the investigation will be completed.

Narbonne is getting a new principal, new athletic director and new assistant principal in charge of athletics

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“All of us are hoping Manuel comes back soon,” Aguirre said.

The LAUSD did reject a request for the football team to travel to Hawaii for a nonleague game.

“We all know who No. 1 still is, and that’s Narbonne,” Garfield coach Lorenzo Hernandez said.

Garfield was the Open Division runner-up last season, and Hernandez is hoping for a repeat. “We’re just going to go stealth mode and hope it works again,” he said.

Among information from the coaches’ meeting: There will be 10 schools with athletic trainers this season, up from five a year ago. Granada Hills Kennedy is one of the new schools receiving a trainer.

The Open Division and Division I, II and III champions will receive state playoff berths this season. No runners-up will be allowed to participate in the state playoffs.

Academically ineligible players will be allowed to practice with teams but not those who attend LAUSD schools. LAUSD still has a policy that prevents ineligible players from practicing. The sitout eligibility date for transfers to be allowed to play is Sept. 27.

Oct. 11 is the date for 10-week report cards when players could become eligible or ineligible. Players are required to have 10 days of practice from that date to be cleared to play.

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No LAUSD buses will be available Aug. 30, so schools must schedule their opening week games for Aug. 29, or pay for charter buses.

Championship games will be played over Thanksgiving break, with finals Nov. 29 or Nov. 30.

New City Section commissioner Vicky Lagos warned coaches that it will be considered a “red flag” when multiple transfers show up. “If you have 10 transfers, we’re going to go out there,” she said.

Chatsworth announced that Dennis Cardona will take over as football coach after Rick Hayashida stepped down to deal with health issues.

Scorebook Live has taken over for MaxPreps in that City Section coaches will be required to post scores on the site.

City Section schools will be holding scrimmages the weekend of Aug. 17, and zero week games are set for Aug. 23.

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