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‘Hungry’ prep athletes are ready for action in a ‘unique’ season following long pandemic layoff

The La Jolla High School football team is as eager to hit the field this season as it was for Homecoming 2019 (pictured).
The La Jolla High School Vikings football team is as eager to hit the field this season as it was for Homecoming 2019 (pictured).
(File)

For a lot of reasons, this year’s spring prep sports season will be unlike any other. For one thing, football will be played, though with a league schedule of no more than five games and no playoffs. Games and matches will be spectator-less. And schedules are being finalized even as the start of seasons looms.

High school and other youth sports are allowed to resume in San Diego County as long as high-contact outdoor sports such as football and water polo and all indoor sports are subject to coronavirus testing, with schools held to the same testing standards as college teams.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Earl Maas issued a temporary restraining order Feb. 19 in a lawsuit filed by Nicholas Gardinera, a senior football player at Scripps Ranch High School, and Cameron Woolsey, a senior football player at Mission Hills High, against the coronavirus-related restrictions imposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Department of Public Health, the county and its chief medical officer, Wilma Wooten, that had kept high school football from returning.

Maas ruled that young athletes are not at greater risk of contracting or transmitting the virus than their professional or collegiate counterparts.

Football practices formally began Feb. 26, and games were scheduled.

On March 4, the day before a hearing on a permanent injunction was scheduled, a settlement of the lawsuit was announced that enabled all high school and other youth sports in California, including those played indoors, to resume in counties that have reached an adjusted coronavirus case rate of 14 or less per 100,000 residents. San Diego County qualified with an adjusted rate of 10.8 as of the weekly report March 2.

Along with testing, coronavirus protocols such as mask-wearing when not competing, social distancing and regular disinfection of equipment and facilities are part of the plans.

Outdoor sports including cross country, field hockey, swimming and diving, golf and tennis were already underway by March 4.

The Bishop's School tennis player Olivia Wiese returns a shot against Torrey Pines High in October 2018.
(File / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

For La Jolla football players wanting to hit the field, kickoff can’t come fast enough.

“Our guys are hungry,” said Bishop’s School football coach Shane Walton. “We have 11 seniors that are excited to get out there and prove themselves.”

When coronavirus restrictions shut down practices and play last year, the Knights committed to exercising and running drills.

“They are in great shape and they are strong,” Walton said. “They are a bit behind in terms of ball skills, but we are going to be OK. These are great guys and they are ready to play.”

Then-Bishop’s School quarterback Tyler Buchner plays in 2019.
(File)

He said the team is motivated to follow the state and county guidelines for masks, testing and social distancing because they don’t want to “lose based on something we can control.”

Similarly, the La Jolla Country Day School Torreys are “looking to make the most of this season and have fun,” said coach Tyler Hales. “Everyone has lost so much over the past year, so we are all so grateful to have this time together and we will all do whatever it takes to sustain this football season during this awful pandemic. … It will be a wild ride but one that we will all be sure to enjoy every step of the way.”

La Jolla Country Day's football team holds a coronavirus-cautious practice for its new season starting next week.
La Jolla Country Day’s football team holds a coronavirus-cautious practice for its new season starting next week.
(Courtesy)

For the seniors who have been part of the program for all four of their high school years, “we are grateful to be able to send them off right with one final season,” Hales said.

At La Jolla High School, the chance to have one last season has been an emotional experience for the Vikings’ 19 seniors. Many of them have played together since their freshman year.

“It’s a unique season, that’s for sure, and it’s not how we all drew it up, but the seniors want that opportunity to hit the field. They want that last chance to play together,” said coach Tyler Roach, who started four years ago.

The March 26 home game against Mira Mesa High School will be the team’s Senior Night, when those 19 athletes will be recognized.

“There is great camaraderie because they have all been together so long,” Roach said. “They are persistent and tough to go through what we’ve gone through and keep hope. We’ve worked out at the park or at the school, whatever the parameters let us do. ...

“Aside from the obvious of getting out there with their buddies, these guys want their Senior Night, so the fact that they get that closure will be a special night for them.”

The current juniors and scattered sophomores know they will need to step up to help the team grow next season, Roach said. “The young guys are just learning and developing how the team operates. I’ve been telling them the seniors are gone in two months and there will be a lot of shoes to fill.”

Local high school football schedules

These schedules are based on information available by the La Jolla Light’s deadline. All games are at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

LA JOLLA HIGH SCHOOL

• March 19: Away vs. Morse High School

• March 26: Home vs. Mira Mesa High School

• April 2: Home vs. Mission Bay High School

• April 9: Away vs. Christian High School

• April 16: Home vs. San Diego High School

LA JOLLA COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL

• March 19 or 20: Vs. The Bishop’s School (location and date TBD)

• March 26: Away vs. Mountain Empire High School

• April 2: Away vs. Escondido Charter High School

• April 9: Away vs. Tri-City Christian School, noon

• April 16: Away vs. Francis Parker School

THE BISHOP’S SCHOOL

• March 12: Away vs. Tri-City Christian School

• March 19 or 20: Vs. La Jolla Country Day School (location and date TBD)

• March 26: Away vs. Francis Parker School

Other sports schedules

Given that schedules for many other sports are still being produced, here’s a look at the coming week based on available information:

LA JOLLA HIGH SCHOOL

Cross country

• March 11: Away vs. Patrick Henry High School. Boys, 3:10 p.m.; girls, 3:30 p.m.

• March 15: Away vs. St. Augustine High School. Boys, 3:10 p.m.; girls, 3:30 p.m.

• March 18: Away vs. Crawford High School. Boys, 3:50 p.m.; girls, 4:10 p.m.

Girls field hockey

• March 12: Away vs. Scripps Ranch High School, 4 p.m.

• March 17: Home vs. Serra High School, 4 p.m.

Golf

• March 15: At The Santaluz Club. Boys, 2:45 p.m.; girls, 3 p.m.

• March 16: At Riverwalk Golf Club. Girls, 2 p.m.

Soccer

• March 19: Home vs. The Bishop’s School. Girls, 3:30 p.m.; boys, 5:30 p.m.

LA JOLLA COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL

La Jolla Country Day's Jacob Kaplan competes in the CIF San Diego Section high school boys tennis championships in 2019.
(File / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Tennis

• March 11: Home vs. Del Norte High School, 3:30 p.m.

Swimming and diving

• March 12: Away vs. Patrick Henry High School, 3:30 p.m.

Boys soccer

• March 12: Away vs. Kearny High School, 6 p.m.

Girls soccer

• March 17: Home vs. Patrick Henry High School, 6 p.m.

Girls field hockey

• March 12: Home vs. Point Loma High School, 6 p.m.

Boys golf

• March 15: At Miramar Memorial Golf Club, 3:30 p.m.

THE BISHOP’S SCHOOL

Swimming

• March 12: Home vs. Scripps Ranch High School, 3 p.m.

Boys field hockey

• March 12: Away vs. Cathedral Catholic High School, 4 p.m.

• March 17: Away vs. Scripps Ranch High School, 4 p.m.

• March 19: Home vs. La Jolla High School ◆