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Though the sport is currently prohibited, head coach Jimmy Joyce said he's confident there will be a season this school year

PMG FILE PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Then-sophomore Mikey Gibson rushes and throws for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Cougar's 40-14 loss to Newberg in September 2019.

On the same day Gov. Kate Brown released new rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Oregon School Activities Association announced that some fall sports will move forward on a delayed schedule, while others — football, cheerleading and dance and drill — currently are prohibited.

OSAA released the news Wednesday, July 22, revealing that as of now, volleyball, cross country and soccer are scheduled to maintain the practice start date of Aug. 17, with the start of contests pushed back to Sept. 23 (previously Aug. 27).

The other fall sports are considered full-contact activities per the governor's and Oregon Health Authority guidelines and are prohibited. For these sports to go forward in fall for a shortened season, restrictions would have to change by Sept. 28.

While "prohibited" might seem like a strong word, Canby's football team is not giving up hope for a season. Canby, a 6A school, recently opted to move its football team to the 5A class for two years while it gets back on its feet under second-year head coach Jimmy Joyce.

"I think we're going to be playing football this year," Joyce said. "I'm pretty confident that we are going to be playing football within this school year is what I will say. I'm not sure it will be within this calendar year."

Joyce's hope is perhaps well-placed as OSAA made it clear that if activities can't be held in fall, the board is committed to working with its contingency groups to exhaust all options for these activities including shifting, condensing or stacking seasons, following the examples of neighboring states Washington and California.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced that it would hold four sports seasons over the course of the year with cross country, slow-pitch softball, golf and more held in September to November; basketball, gymnastics, cheerleading and more held January through March; volleyball, girls soccer, football and more held March through April; and fast-pitch softball, track, baseball and more going from the end of April through late June.

Joyce was with his team when Washington's news broke.

"I can tell you this. The kids were very hopeful after hearing that," Joyce said. "They were, I think, very excited because when it comes down to it, these kids don't mind when they play; they just want to play."

The California Interscholastic Federation, too, made big changes, dividing sports into just two seasons beginning in December at the earliest.

The shifts prove nothing is going back to normal anytime soon — a fact Canby Athletic Director Ben Winegar suggests athletes embrace.

"The biggest thing for our athletes to remember is there's this kind of expectation for it to return back to normal quickly. I think the big thing to understand is it's going to be a slow, gradual return to normal as things open up one after another," Winegar said. "And that's the challenge where I think we have to do a good job of accepting. But that doesn't mean that changes our preparation. That doesn't mean that changes our work right now. That doesn't mean that we can't be staying fit, talking with each other, working on our skill set. That doesn't mean any of that changes."

Under Winegar's and Joyce's direction, Canby's football team is accepting change and avoiding getting too worried about the future.

"One thing that we're doing as an athletic department that Ben has set up is that we basically work in two-week intervals. We're not really thinking too far ahead," Joyce said. "We're really thinking two weeks at a time with what we're doing. And you know where we're at right now, we have two weeks until Aug. 3 when [the OSAA executive board members] reconvene, and we'll see what happens then."

The news from OSAA about fall sports comes as communities have been waiting with bated breath to find out if sports would happen at all.

"During the past few weeks and months, we've received countless emails advocating for the safe return of school sports and activities," OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber said in the announcement. "The OSAA Executive Board and staff share the passion and desire expressed by this communication and have been advocating with the governor's office accordingly."

Even though some sports are expected to go on, everyone knows that, too, could shift.

"We're thankful for information, but we also know that everything has to stay fluid," said Kristen Rott, Molalla's athletic director, in a Zoom meeting about school in fall.

Kristen Wohlers
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