Football off the table, spring sports remain the focus

With a little over three months to go before the end of the school year, in what has been one bumpy ride for high school students, especially seniors from the class of 2021, the push to get student athletes back into their sports is taking top priority in our area. Athletic directors from the South Valley League met Wednesday, Feb. 24, to discuss their plan of action in anticipation of getting the official greenlight from the CIF Southern Section offices.

South Valley League member schools include Temecula Preparatory High School, Santa Rosa Academy, San Jacinto Valley Academy, California Military Institute, St. Jeanne De Lestonnac High School and Nuview Bridge Early College High School. Hamilton High School in Anza cross-leagues into the SVL for girls’ soccer and California Lutheran High School in Wildomar cross-leagues into the SVL for boys’ golf.

Jason Litt, athletic director of Temecula Preparatory High School, provided the following information as it pertains to the league and how they are moving forward with a return-to-play for high school sports.

Football is one of a few sports that South Valley League high school athletes will not participate in for the 2020-2021 school year. Valley News/AC Sports photo

As a league, football will not be played this year due to limited time and the cost of reconditioning helmets/pads for just a few games. With spectator restrictions, the league anticipated extremely limited revenue coming in.

“A couple of league schools are still looking into playing a few games, but they will be handling the scheduling of those on their own,” Litt said. “We all agreed we are looking forward to returning with normal summer conditioning and August start dates for nonleague games.”

Most South Valley League schools had been conditioning outdoors for girls’ volleyball, football and cross-country up until the holiday surge of COVID-19 cases after the Thanksgiving break and before the Christmas break.

“As a school we made the decision to hold off on those seasons and focus on the traditional spring sports,” Litt said, who is also the head baseball coach at Temecula Preparatory High School.

The league will be moving forward with the following sports: track and field, boys’ and girls’ golf, baseball, softball, boys’ and girls’ soccer. Sports that are a “maybe” according to the league are boys’ and girls’ basketball and boys’ volleyball.

Full league schedules remain in place for all sports being offering, except boys’ and girls’ soccer. The league had to modify those soccer schedules so they can play the girls’ league championship game Wednesday, April 21, and the boys’ league championship Wednesday, April 14. This change allows those athletes to play baseball or softball which begins league play Tuesday, April 20.

“I am very excited we start track and field conditioning this week, and baseball, softball, soccer, and golf will begin on March 15,” Litt said.

The league also eliminated the second round of league play and will seed each school based on their win/loss record after the first round. Single elimination at that point. Never more than two schools on the same site on the same day. As a league, they did secure Perris High School to host track meets on Saturdays (Meets dates TBD).

“Rashiid Burgo, the athletic director at California Military Institute was able to secure the facility and we applaud his efforts for the league,” added Litt.

South Valley League sports like baseball, softball, soccer and golf will begin Monday, March 15. Valley News/File photo

“We have typically held our meets at Heritage, Perris or Paloma Valley high schools, but we are certain those venues will be occupied by their host schools,” Litt said. “We feel offering the traditional spring sports as a priority is especially important because they were forced to cancel most, if not all of their spring seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year.”

According to Litt, the entire group of athletic directors all felt the same.

“We want to try to prioritize and provide as many opportunities as possible for these kids to get outside, start to get back that feeling of normalcy and compete for their respective schools,” he said.

The South Valley League is still waiting on word from the CIF regarding spring championships.

When asked about feedback from the parents and athletes, Litt said, “We have a supportive school community of parents for the most part and we have been sending out weekly updates throughout this pandemic. Of course, there is disappointment that we are not actively competing, but everyone agrees that we are getting closer to a sense of normalcy. I have received several positive emails, and feedback from students who returned to in-person learning at the beginning of February has been positive as well.”

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.