The battle rages on in California, where two private schools played a football game last weekend.
California, like Hawaii, is one of just a handful of states that have locked high school sports down during the COVID-19 pandemic. The game involving Capistrano Valley Christian and Calvary Chapel isn’t novel in this sense: there are plenty of football contests going in the Golden State. Almost all of them, however, were played by club teams in Corona at a field with no ties to any school.
Youth sports, including club football, are still prohibited in California. That hasn’t stopped the Winner Circle Champions League from starting its six-week season — at Corona — according to the Los Angeles Times. The league has 34 teams and 1,500 players.
Major spikes in case numbers and deaths have the state in stay-at-home mode, in addition to the potential CIF and Southern Section rules violations, according to an article in the Orange County Register.
Thirty-five states played football, considered one of the higher-risk sports, during the fall season. Another 10 states are playing this winter or will resume the sport in the spring. All of Hawaii’s high school leagues have cancelled football with the exception of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.
“No change in ILH football. We’re still scheduled for a Feb. 22 start date for practice,” said ILH football coordinator and ‘Iolani Coach Wendell Look.
In Georgia, basketball season is at its midway point.
Opposition to the high school sports shutdown in California has been scorching hot. In one region, schools were waiting to hear from the California Interscholastic Federation. Those schools are willing to defect from the CIF for a chance to play football this spring.
The game played last weekend has already drawn the ire of the CIF, which sent a memo to its nearly-1,600 member schools, promising possible sanctions, fines and/or dismissal from membership, according to the Sacramento Bee. However, the CIF Southern Section later announced there would be no penalties for Capistrano Valley Christian and Calvary Chapel.
Locally, the Hawaii High School Athletic Association has made no comment officially in response to an exhibition game played between Damien and Saint Louis. Damien played as a club team at the new T.C. Ching Athletic Center, the new home of the Saint Louis Crusaders. Saint Louis played as a school team, but got its insurance under club status since the Interscholastic League of Honolulu officially cancelled winter sports recently.
On Wednesday, the Crusaders played a club team, Team X, and won, 55-45. On Friday, they played Imua, a team comprised of Kamehameha players. Even Saint Louis’ Division II team was scheduled to play Hanalani.
“Everything is going well,” Crusaders Coach Dan Hale said. “We played and all was good. After we play Imua tonight, our protocols are off until next Friday.”
Because the exhibition was not, technically, a high school game, the HHSAA did not sanction it and has no stake. No HHSAA rules were broken, according to Executive Director Chris Chun.
However, as fields and courts on Oahu draw athletes who engage in small and large groups to train, exercise and even play pickup games, the question about the City and County of Honolulu’s existing tier system is unavoidable. If the island of Oahu has to meet “Tier 4” criteria — 20 or fewer new cases of COVID-19 per day — before groups of more than five people can play together — was the Damien-Saint Louis exhibition against the rule?
And what would happen to hundreds, if not thousands of citizens, who are at parks after months of quarantined isolation indoors?
Momentum, clearly, is on the side of the public. Safe Sports 808, headed by several parents, former players — like ex-Hawaii and CFL standout Chad Owens — and boosted by Councilmember Andria Tupola, has made big strides.
Recently-elected Mayor Rick Blangiardi has indicated several times that he would like to safely adjust the tier system and bring organized youth sports back to Parks and Recreation facilities, which would likely include gyms that have been closed since March. The tiered system doesn’t pertain directly to the state’s DOE and high schools, but Oahu Interscholastic Association Executive Director Raymond Fujino has indicated that the City and County’s tiers have a significant influence.
At T.C. Ching Athletic Center, protocols included masks on all players and coaches, temperature checks, consistent sanitizing and social distancing off the court. Both coaches, Hale and Damien’s Keith Spencer, approved of the protocols and the results of the first high school-level basketball game in Hawaii since February of 2020.
Meanwhile, in Merced County, Calif., some schools are considering a pullout from the CIF. Stay tuned.