Rivalry kicks off unique prep football season
No doubt there will be plenty of emotion at Hillsboro Stadium on Friday, March 5, when Jesuit and Central Catholic get together for a high school football game. The rivalry between Portland's Catholic schools is well documented and brings a bit of added juice to what figures to be a memorable week for high school athletes around Oregon.
That juice, however, won't come from fans.
Per Oregon Health Authority restrictions, spectators are not yet allowed at high school football games, or any of the traditional fall sports that begin this week. Schools and districts will provide online streaming video of contests when possible. For the Jesuit-Central Catholic game, that will be Central Catholic's Ram TV, which can be accessed through the Central Catholic website.
Monday, March 1, was the first day teams could compete in boys soccer, girls soccer, cross country and volleyball. The seasons for those sports, and football, continue through the week of April 5-10.
There will be no state playoffs.
"I think the kids are just happy to have the chance to play," said Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne, whose Rams won the 2019 6A football state championship.
• Even players in the game must wear a face covering. Wearing a mask under a helmet, and keeping it in place while tackling, is challenging, noted Pyne.
"It's not ideal. But the kids adapt," Jesuit coach Ken Potter said. "We'll do whatever it takes to be able to play."
State and county rules limit the number of people in a venue. At Hillsboro Stadium, no more than 150 folks will be allowed. Jesuit plans to take about 45 of the 140 players in its program to Friday's game. Some assistant coaches must follow the game online.
• Pyne said seven seniors were among those who chose not to play football this season, most of them out of concern for family members who are at higher risk for severe cases of COVID-19.
Among the seniors playing is 6-6, 300-pound tackle Ryan Dirksen, a backup as a junior who Pyne said hopes a strong senior season, even this abbreviated one, can propel him into a Division I college football opportunity.
• Jesuit has had "a small number" of players opt out of football, Potter said, adding that he understands completely why playing football in March doesn't work for some students. Although they have 24 seniors, the Crusaders are short on varsity experience. The only returning varsity starters are linemen Declan Quillin and Charlie Pickard (who have played offense and defense) and defensive back Mason Masterson.
"We'll have to find out if our kids can actually tackle and block," Potter said. "Everyone is going into games with lots of unknowns."
• All eight Portland Interscholastic League football teams (Benson does not have football this season) will kick off their seasons on Saturday, March 6. Each program has enough players to field varsity and junior varsity teams. The length of JV games will depend upon the number of players available.
The PIL Week 1 schedule: Madison vs. Cleveland at Franklin High, noon; Lincoln vs. Jefferson at Ida B. Wells (formerly Wilson High), 12:30 p.m.; Roosevelt at Wells, 4 p.m.; Grant at Barlow, 4 p.m.; Gresham at Franklin, 4 p.m.
Entering this week, PIL administrators were working to finalize a plan to stream games on the Internet, according to Jeff Peeler, assistant district athletic director for Portland Public Schools.
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