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Prep sports: Soccer, cross-country given go-ahead to practice; football and volleyball still unclear

Prep sports: Soccer, cross-country given go-ahead to practice; football and volleyball still unclear

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High school soccer and cross-country teams in the state of Oregon will be able to begin practice Feb. 22, but start dates for football and volleyball are still up in the air. 

Some clarity was provided Monday as to how high school sports in Oregon might shape out during the rest of the school year. 

But there are still plenty of unanswered questions, too. 

In an executive board meeting, the Oregon School Activities Association voted in favor of a “season two” fall sports plan that includes soccer and cross-country teams beginning practice on Feb. 22 in anticipation of a season that will begin March 1. 

But the road for a return to contact sports — volleyball and football — is more difficult. 

Some volleyball teams will be able to begin practice on Feb. 22, but only in counties that fall outside the “extreme” risk level handed down from the Oregon Health Authority. The board voted to proceed with volleyball in the 47 schools located in the 12 counties that are currently considered “low, moderate or high” risk. 

For schools in the 12 extreme-risk counties, outdoor volleyball was approved as an option. Volleyball programs can also submit a “change of season” request form, which would shift their season to a later point in the school year, when they could potentially be cleared to participate. 

As of Jan. 23, both Benton and Linn counties were designated as extreme risk counties. County risk levels are updated every two weeks in response to how COIVD-19 is spreading throughout communities. 

As for football, the OSAA is in limbo as it awaits guidance from the OHA on whether contact games and practices will be allowed this year. Instead of making a decision on the football season based on the current circumstances, the board opted to wait until more information is available. 

“We're anticipating, based on the conversations, some type of changes to the contact sports guidance in the next couple of days,” OSAA executive director Peter Weber said. “We don't know what those changes are. But any change would be an improvement to where they are now.

“While we're waiting for that to potentially happen, we know that we need to be providing the options to schools that will allow people to move forward, depending on what that guidance looks like.”

Non-contact football practices began Monday, but they are conditioning only, and contact practices cannot begin without changes to the state guidance. 

During the meeting, board members strongly advocated for a plan that would eventually result in all activities being available for students to participate in. They also approved an alternative plan for football that would include 7-on-7, flag, virtual lineman challenge and a virtual combine.

“I think we all know going in that not a single one of these activities is going to replace contact football. We get it,” assistant executive director Brad Garrett said. “But at the same time, we are leveraging every possible opportunity to find opportunities to produce activities that kids and coaches can do together under the current guidelines.”

Board members also acknowledged the reality that the start date for football cannot be pushed too far down the road, because could potentially jeopardize the fall 2021 season.

The board will reconvene on Feb. 17 to make a determination on season two sports. OSAA announced on social media that if more information on contact sports is available from state health authorities before Feb. 17, it will be disseminated as soon as it is available.

Jarrid Denney can be reached at 541-521-3214 or via email at Jarrid.Denney@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @jarrid_denney

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