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Sierra Canyon is first in L.A. County to begin football workouts

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Craving a sense of normalcy after three months of being barred from team workouts during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chatsworth Sierra Canyon on Monday morning became the first school in Los Angeles County to gather its football players and begin team conditioning drills while following CIF safety guidelines.

“Good morning, good morning,” athletic director Rock Pillsbury said while holding a non-contact infrared thermometer and wearing a face covering to greet visitors near the Trailblazers’ football field.

Players arrived in groups of 10 as coach Jon Ellinghouse surveyed the scene. There were no fist bumps, no handshakes and no footballs.

“I don’t know any other time I’d be up at 7 a.m. and hyped in the car, blasting music,” quarterback Chayden Peery said. “We get to be on the same field together even with the weird precautions. We’ll take it.”

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And the sights certainly were weird. Peery was in shotgun formation throwing an invisible football. Receivers were running pass routes and catching an invisible football. Players had to fill out a health screening questionnaire, get their temperature taken and show up wearing a mask to be allowed in. No parents were permitted to watch. Players were told to engage in social distancing while waiting for the workouts to begin.

“Obviously this is strange and there’s a lot of limitations that we’re making sure to follow to keep everyone safe,” said Ellinghouse, who was wearing an N95 mask. “But at the end of the day, the kids are back out here, which i think is important. This is part of the mental and physical safety as well and it’s time to get moving.”

Kicker Joshua Bryan said he has been practicing kicking field goals by trying to hit light poles or trees at parks. He said he climbed the fence once at Valencia West Ranch to use the goal posts but was told to leave by security.

Several schools in Orange County also were given clearance to begin conditioning workouts under similar guidelines. Los Alamitos and Tustin started football workouts.

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More schools could begin next week after completing their required summer dead periods. There is still no idea when the fall sports season might begin. The CIF, which governs high school sports in California, indicated last week that it intends to announce a calendar by July 20.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has yet to give permission to coaches to work with students and has not opened any of its facilities for use.


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