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September 18, 2021

Covid protocols have football coaches calling audibles

WATSONVILLE—Last week was a rollercoaster ride for St. Francis High football coach John Ausman. 

A day before their season opener against King City High on Aug. 27, he broke the news to the team that the game would be postponed. 

The excitement came back when they were told it was back on for Monday, but then the anxiousness kicked in as they waited until 12:30pm that day to get the official green light.

“You can get as frustrated as you want but you really don’t dictate much in your small world,” he said. “Our small world is Sharks football and I think we realized that last Thursday.”

Ausman said the experience put everything in perspective and reminded the team to not take things for granted.

“I think it just makes you slow down. It’s something that not only myself but our team and kind of this world aren’t doing,” he said. “Just appreciate those moments and the opportunities you have.”

St. Francis had to wait until Monday to play its season opener after most teams played over the weekend—some started their season as early as Aug. 26. 

The school was notified on Aug. 26 by Santa Cruz County Public Health that some student-athletes may have been exposed to football players from Watsonville High who tested positive for Covid-19.

St. Francis Athletic Director Adam Hazel announced the postponement the following day.

Ausman said they plan on testing more often so that a similar situation doesn’t occur again, but nothing is set in stone. 

So far, they are cleared to play Saturday’s game against Watsonville High at Cabrillo College at 7:30pm.

“Call me tomorrow, that might change,” Ausman said jokingly. “Never take for granted the things you enjoy doing.”

San Lorenzo Valley High canceled its season opener against George Washington High after players on the Cougars’ team had to quarantine for 10 days. The players came in close contact with classmates who had Covid-19.   

“We’ve been hit with some speed bumps,” SLV coach Andrew Milich said. “We’re trying to deal with them accordingly. Right now as of this week, we’re not playing.”   

The good news is that Los Altos High agreed to switch this week’s game to Oct. 21, which would’ve been a bye week for both teams.

“We got hit early with this Covid thing. It took players away and it took half of our coaches away,” Milich said.

It has been an interesting start to the 2021 football season. Games have been moved around because of Covid-19, and air quality concerns stemming from the ongoing fires around the state. 

In addition, a referee shortage forced Monte Vista Christian and North Monterey County High to play Thursday, instead of Friday.

Condors coach Juan Cuevas said it’s crazy times that we’re living in. He said that everyone is excited to see the students are back in school, and his players are pumped to get the season going after not suiting up for the shortened Covid-19 spring season.

“As coaches, we tend to be control freaks, we want to know the answer to everything,” he said. “But on this whole Covid stuff and other things like the smoke, it’s not up to us. It’s whatever happens, happens.”

NMC is scheduled to play at Pajaro Valley High on Saturday at 2pm. Cuevas said he has to cross his fingers every day that he doesn’t have a kid in a class that comes into close contact with someone who has Covid-19.

Cuevas told his coaches that they dodged some bullets earlier this season. They had a couple of players that had to quarantine for 10 days before getting cleared to practice.

“We’ve been dodging these bullets but I can’t help to think it’s going to bite us in the you know what real soon,” he said.

NMC considers close contact if someone is within six feet of somebody for more than 15 minutes.

Cuevas said he gets about three notifications a week that he may have been in close contact with someone who contracted the virus. He added the reason he doesn’t have to quarantine is that he’s vaccinated and keeps his mask on at all times.

“I’m also smart, I try to sit in corners of rooms,” he said.

San Benito High was up 10-0 against Santa Teresa High at halftime when the team was notified that administrators had decided to call the game due to poor air quality.

Salinas High also backed out of their contest against Placer High of Auburn because of the poor air quality.

Ausman said the smoke issue hadn’t crossed his mind because they’ve been dealing with Covid-19 testing. Most of the Sharks’ remaining games are scheduled in south Monterey County, with the exception of one against Mission College Prep in San Luis Obispo.

And with all of these issues still arising, the California Interscholastic Federation announced that games can now be rescheduled on Sunday if they are affected by Covid-19 or poor air quality.

Ausman said that playing on a Sunday also hasn’t crossed his mind and it’ll be a different conversation if they ever get to that point.

“I think our administration and our athletic department’s mentality is giving as many opportunities to our student-athletes to participate in the sport they’ve been working so hard at,” he said.  

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