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High school sports update: First weekend of football takes place in Utah

High school football was played for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic in Utah over the weekend.
(Under the Radar)

While 16 state high school sports associations have moved high school football from the fall to next year, Utah has become the first state to play games during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a rough beginning — when a game between Utah high schools South Jordan Bingham and Pleasant View Weber had to be canceled after three Bingham players tested positive for COVID-19 — nearly 50 other games were played over the weekend. It was a brief time of normalcy for players and parents amid an uncertain time nationwide.

“We have a long way to go but are encouraged it’s gotten off to a positive start,” said Jon Oglesby, spokesman for the Utah High School Activities Assn. “There’s certainly an understanding our state on the West Coast is one of a few states playing high school football. There’s an added element of us taking a lot of time and effort making sure our student-athletes are protected. There’s an acknowledgment we are pushing forward, where some other states on the West Coast are not.”

There won’t be any celebrations one week into the football season, because everyone understands that if protocols are not followed or there’s a COVID-19 outbreak, it can all come to a screeching halt. Fans were allowed in the stands based on district and local health guidelines.

Among the guidelines: No shaking hands before or after games; it is recommended players and coaches on the sideline wear masks; masks are also recommended for fans.

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Contests also have been held in girls’ volleyball, cross-country, tennis, baseball, golf and soccer. Utah begins its high school sports seasons before classes convene for the new year. So that will be another challenge in the coming weeks as athletes return to campuses, where they face additional risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Football is scheduled to end the week before Thanksgiving with state championships.

“Nobody is being forced to play,” Oglesby said, “and by playing there’s an acknowledgment of regulations that go along with it.”

In California, official practice for football, volleyball and water polo does not begin until December, with the first football games scheduled for Jan. 8. Some schools are beginning to allow teams to launch conditioning programs under strict guidelines allowed by state and local health departments.

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Adding to some optimism in California was Monday’s announcement that the Los Angeles Unified School District would be launching a testing and tracing program for staff and students. That’s a key requirement for reopening schools, which would also lead to reopening sports facilities.


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