PHS football team prepares for drills on Feb. 8

A lot of questions remain unanswered but the Philomath High School football team has plans to open practice this coming Monday with routine conditioning drills.

The Oregon School Activities Association executive board adopted a revised 2020-21 activities calendar on Dec. 7 with football allowed to begin organized practices on Feb. 8. The other “fall sports” — cross-country, soccer and volleyball — can begin voluntary workouts on Feb. 8 but their official practices do not begin until Feb. 22.

PHS Athletic Director Tony Matta, who is also the head football coach, said he received clarification last week from Brad Garrett, OSAA assistant executive director, on participation guidelines.

“Early on they were saying you had to be back in either hybrid or back in-person and that’s no longer the case,” Matta said. “You can have athletics — it’s a district decision even if you’re in CDL (comprehensive distance learning).”

As far as traditional football goes, none of that matters if the governor’s office doesn’t lift restrictions for full-contact sports. On the list of prohibited activities are football, wrestling, basketball, cheerleading and dance/drill — those latter two only if contact is involved in their routines.

The OSAA executive board plans to meet Feb. 8 and the agenda includes COVID-19 updates, including a specific discussion on football and volleyball.

Under Benton County’s extreme risk categorization, it makes it pretty much impossible to hold productive practices with such tight restrictions on indoor activities. The situation with volleyball will look more feasible if the county’s risk status improves.

Matta said he received an email from Rob Younger, executive director of the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association, that indicates it could be possible for restrictions to be lifted on full-contact sports.

“They feel that they made a pretty good case to the governor and got the support of a lot of state representatives that are supporting the opening of athletics back up — including football and the full-contact sports, just because it’s going to be good for kids to be involved,” Matta said.

However, if the governor’s restrictions remain in place, traditional football may need to be scrapped in favor of passing league games.

“I think that if you can’t have football in its true form, that they’ll say potentially certifying a 7-on-7 season,” Matta said.

For now, PHS football players will hit the field on Feb. 8 with that week of conditioning. On Feb. 15, coaches will bring out the equipment with helmets for the first two days and then shoulder pads added in.

“There’s no contact in practice until we’re cleared so it’ll be much like what we did in the fall with our six-week session,” Matta said, adding that by the end of next week, there could be an update on whether or not the governor’s office is still prohibiting football.

Matta was relieved to learn about the OSAA allowing athletics among schools that remain in distance learning. The Philomath School District’s plans for reintroducing students to classrooms in a hybrid model have gone through various revisions and delays.

The school district’s model includes K-3 students coming back first, followed by grades 4-5, middle school and high school.

“I was concerned about the high school’s date and where that was going to fall and even as we look at the adjustments that the district makes at the K-3 level and what impact it may have as we transition more and more grades back in, we’re still going to be ahead of Corvallis schools and Albany schools,” said Matta, adding but only “if things fall into place the way we hope.”

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