In late February, a light began to shine at the end of the tunnel for the return of high school athletics. After receiving the go ahead from the California Department of Public Health and Governor Newsom, schools were left a small window to prepare for their respective seasons. Fast forward two months later and things are starting to look a little more normal around the Southland.
Southern Section Football
Eleven-man football kicked off a truncated spring 2020 season in early March. With the CIF Southern Section canceling fall sports championships, many teams got creative with their scheduling including defending national champion, St. John Bosco.
The Braves kicked off the campaign with a daunting challenge in front of them, opening the season against two-time Division II champion Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth). Spotlighted by many changes to its roster including at quarterback, Bosco reminded everyone they’re still a force to be reckoned with in the state handily defeating the Trailblazers 42-21 on opening weekend.
Both teams were loaded with talent across the board. However, behind a strong running game and the poise of their quarterback rotation, the Braves were able to outscore Sierra Canyon 35-14 over the final three quarters.
Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the Trinity League, Santa Ana Mater Dei remains a perennial power in the state but now stands in the shadow of rival St. John Bosco. A program that has produced names such as Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC) and Bryce Young (Alabama) are on a collision course with the Braves to set up a battle on the final weekend of the regular season.
Through this shortened season, the Monarchs have outscored opponents by a 174-40 margin, while the Braves have disintegrated their league competition by a whopping 266-91. Both teams have been led by new faces who are now being recognized at the national level such as Boise State-bound Katin Houser (St. John Bosco) and Oklahoma-bound Raleek Brown (Mater Dei).
It’ll all came down to Saturday night when the undefeated squads squared off at the Santa Ana Bowl where Southern California’s best collide. With no shiny hardware or a potential rematch to be played in the section or state championship game, an outright league championship and bragging rights are on the line.
In any normal year, the overlap between basketball and baseball happens for only at least three weeks. But, this year has been anything but normal. Basketball and baseball see overlapping schedules this spring as the sports calendars were adjusted.
These sports began in earnest on March 12 (Basketball) and March 19 (Baseball) respectively, and are scheduled to run until early June. Basketball faced hurdles as under state guidelines they had to meet more stringent requirements for testing similar to colleges.
So far, we’ve seen the usual suspects such as JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) dominate on the diamond. While we’ve seen some new faces burst onto the basketball scene Damien (La Verne) storm the field undefeated through 13 games. currently ranked second in the latest Southern Section polls (per MaxPreps).
Los Angeles City Section
LAUSD’s athletics branch had a slow start in returning to athletic competition. Many athletes have waited over a year to compete. But, due to stringent guidelines set forth by the department of public health and by the district the City Section’s hands were tied.
Many charter and private institutions such as Birmingham and El Camino Real were able to begin scheduling opponents from the Southern Section while others sat back and watched from the sidelines. Thankfully, conditions have improved enough for more to get involved.
“I am staying positive and optimistic during this time, as I’m continuously “clearing” student-athletes and coaches to be eligible when it’s safe and approved to participate in athletics,” San Pedro High School athletic director Anthony Rogosic said.
“I am communicating with administration, coaches, students, and parents of any news or updates that occur with regards to [California Interscholastic Federation-Los Angeles City Section] athletics.”
Section Championships: Are they going to proceed? YOU BET!
In recent announcements by both governing bodies, spring sports championships are set to take place this academic year. CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod, made the call on Monday.
“Due to recent changes to the California Department of Public Health Guidelines for Youth Sports, we are excited to announce that we are prepared to go forward with Section Championships for the following Season 2 Team Sports,” CIF Southern Section Commissioner of Athletics Rob Wigod said.
Included sports on this announcement were basketball, baseball, softball, tennis, lacrosse, soccer, boys volleyball and wrestling. According to CIF, some of the hurdles left to jump over include obtaining approval from local health officials to allow the necessary travel between schools.
“We are actively working on securing approvals from various county health departments to ensure we can conduct championship events involving student-athletes from all eight counties within the Southern Section footprint,” the statement said. “More information will be coming soon as we attempt to finalize plans for going forward with these Individual sports.”
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Section announced that indoor sports such as basketball and volleyball have received clearance to begin competition as early as Monday, April 19, on the terms of weekly COVID tests are administered and spectator guidelines are followed.
Additionally, the section also confirmed that all spring season team sports will have postseasons. Those include boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball, boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls volleyball.
California may have gotten a later start in rolling out interscholastic athletics, but the long-awaited hiatus is over and everyone is back competing. Things are looking up for the future of high school athletics in the months ahead.