The cold rain could do nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the players who took part in a football workout Thursday afternoon at Lebanon High School.
Dozens of players with hoods over their heads to shield them from the weather and masks over their faces to comply with COVID-19 guidelines ran through drills and worked to remember old plays.
There were no pads and no hitting was allowed — that will begin in the next week or so — but there was a sense of anticipation that real football was on the way. The players’ enthusiasm was bolstered by an update from the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) which confirmed that outdoor football workouts can continue and games can be scheduled.
Lebanon varsity football coach Ty Tomlin said the OSAA’s announcement provided a real boost to the players, who have been working out for months with no certainty they would be allowed to play.
“When we did find out, you could see the difference. Before that, it felt like dangling the carrot.
A lot of our kids and parents have done everything they’ve been asked to do,” Tomlin said. “I’m really proud of my kids, they’ve done a really good job of trusting the process and having a positive attitude.”
The latest update from the OSAA, based on guidance from the governor’s office and the Oregon Health Authority, allows full-contact outdoor sports to move forward. But there are rules attached, especially for extreme and high risk counties, which includes Lebanon High.
These schools must submit a plan and commit to following state guidelines. At present, these guidelines include:
- Limiting the sports field capacity to 120 people.
- Prohibiting spectators.
- Offering on-site testing for symptomatic individuals and those who have known exposure to COVID-19.
- Collecting information for contact tracing for everyone present.
- Collecting waivers from participants or their parent/guardian acknowledging the safety risk of participating in a contact sport at this time.
Lebanon Athletic Director Kraig Hoene said schools will have to be careful to stay within that 120-person limit for football games. The number of athletes, coaches, game officials and medical staff for two teams could easily exceed that limit if there is no advance planning.
“That’s going to make us manage our varsity rosters a little bit to make sure we have enough for officials and chain gang, clock operators, those types of things,” Hoene said.
Hoene said that as long as there are limits on the number of people who can be present, fans are unlikely to be able to attend.
“I’m not really interested in deciding what parent can come in and what parent can’t. Until it’s opened up so I don’t have to count who’s coming through the gate, I don’t see a lot of us agreeing to do that,” Hoene said.
Hoene believes it is unlikely that fans will be able to attend as long as the contact tracing rules are in place. The more people that are present, the more difficult that task becomes.
Tomlin said that so far, 102 players have registered and there were more than 70 players in attendance last week. He said some seniors have chosen not to play, perhaps because of the limited season and the delay from a fall start to a mid-winter opening.
“We’re missing some kids, still. We have 20 freshmen, would like to have more,” Tomlin said.
Teams are allowed to begin phasing in pads this week. The Warriors are scheduled to open their season at home against Sprague on March 5. That will be followed by games against five Mid-Willamette Conference foes, Tomlin said.
A six game season will be the reward for players and coaches who have been working toward this season since last summer.
“I didn’t really know what to expect. I think that’s a good number, two-thirds of our season,” Tomlin said. “I’m pretty pleased with it.”