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Colorado has played high school sports. California? Still on hold

High school football players on the field, with a few scattered people watching from the stands.
Eaglecrest High finished its football season in Colorado, having played seven games in 2020.
(Vinnie Orlando)

Vinnie Orlando, the athletic director for eight years at Eaglecrest High School in Centennial, Colo., spent years as an athletic director at San Fernando Valley schools Harvard-Westlake and El Camino Real.

Speaking from his four-bedroom house in Parker, a suburb of Denver, with the temperature a pleasant 53 degrees Monday morning, Orlando explained how his school’s football team was able to finish its seven-game season while California teams still hadn’t held a single practice or played any games since the 2020-21 school year began in August.

“Colorado found a way to have fall sports safely,” he said.

Thirty-four states around the country were able to play football. Colorado gave its schools the option of playing in the fall or in the spring. Most played in the fall, though the two largest school districts, Denver and Aurora, delayed their football seasons. Now Colorado is ready to launch its basketball season Jan. 25. That’s the day California is supposed to start allowing high schools to resume sports — . but only the sports allowed in the reopening tier into which a particular county falls

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Football began in Colorado on Oct. 10. It remains to be seen if any football will be played in California during the 2020-21 school year.

“When our state association got approval from the governor’s office, it pushed the momentum to figure a way even when schools were in remote distance learning or hybrid,” Orlando said. “It pushed the envelope to get sports underway and into competition.”

Protocols were figured out and safety measures implemented. Students underwent symptom checks and temperature checks, and masks were worn.

Having played and coached in Southern California, Orlando says he understands why the state has had more obstacles . getting its high school sports underway than other states have.

“With the numbers surging in different counties,” he said, “I think there’s some different obstacles and circumstances. It makes it more challenging.”

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But Orlando says Colorado and other states have shown that sports can return safely with protocols.

“I think there’s eventually going to be a way, but the numbers have to get to a certain point,” he said. “The template is there on how to do it and how to have practices and games safely. There has to be a decrease in numbers or a stabilizing pathway.”

Meanwhile, basketball practice begins in the Eaglecrest gym this week.


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