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COVID creates havoc as high school football season kicks off

COVID creates havoc as high school football season kicks off
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Satellite TV trucks stationed in the parking lot. Boosters dining in the quad with blue tablecloth, pastrami sandwiches and a wine bar. End zone seats that come with concierge food service for chicken, hamburgers and carne asada burritos from the snack bar. Players wearing custom jerseys, helmets, cleats and socks provided by Nike.

You’d think this scene belonged to a college football program, but it was Friday night at Bellflower St. John Bosco, where the No. 1-ranked Braves beat Miami Central 35-12 while proudly displaying all the bells and whistles that come with reaching the stratosphere of the high school football experience.

Football is back in Southern California, and there has never been a greater gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Nine City Section schools canceled Friday openers because of COVID-19 protocols, lack of players or a shortage of nurses to approve physicals. Granada Hills refused to allow fans at its game against Arleta, citing safety concerns. Rancho Cucamonga, Ventura, Canyon Country Canyon and Newbury Park called off games because of COVID issues. There also are shortages of officials in the Channel Coast and San Gabriel Valley units.

Coaches are on pins and needles. Player tests are on Mondays and Tuesdays, with results showing up Wednesday and Thursday.

In Los Angeles County, it’s the health department doing contact tracing for a positive test, and there’s uncertainty on procedures. Reseda coach Alonso Arreola informed his athletic director of a positive test at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. His players were told not to come to school Friday. No one had contacted him for contact tracing more than 24 hours later.

“I have 40 players at home but not 40 players were exposed,” Arreola said Friday morning.

San Pedro coach Corey Miller, understanding the changing environment because of COVID-19 testing, said, “I used to say ‘one day at a time.’ Now it’s one hour at a time.”

This fall season was supposed to be different than the abbreviated spring schedule, marked by repeated disruptions because of the pandemic. The truth is obstacles remain even though vaccinations have increased among everyone involved. The good news is schools are adapting, with many willing to make last-minute changes. Fairfax and Westchester, league rivals, decided to play Friday even though they have a Western League game Oct. 1. “We don’t care. We just want our kids to play,” Fairfax coach Juan Solorio said.

Burbank and Simi Valley agreed to play Friday with no preparation after losing opponents. Simi Valley coach Jim Benkert said in a text, “We are taking the field now and to see how happy the players are to be able to play tonight is awesome.”

At St. John Bosco, Jabari Bates scored three touchdowns, and the Braves’ defense played well.

Bates started the game with a two-yard score off a shovel pass and added a 31-yard touchdown run. St. John Bosco led 21-0 six minutes in after Jahlil McClain caught Pierce Clarkson’s four-yard touchdown pass.

The Braves seemed to lose interest after that amid a flurry of penalties and led 21-6 at halftime. They were fortunate that offensive tackle Earnest Greene made a touchdown-saving tackle after an interception to stall a Central comeback.

The Braves couldn’t produce a consistent rushing attack and the lack of a breakaway receiver might be an issue later in the season against Santa Ana Mater Dei.

Hamilton made a little history, beating Harbor City Narbonne 27-14.

It was Narbonne’s first loss to a City Section team since losing to Carson on Oct. 31, 2014.





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