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Restrictions lifted, but COVID effects linger for high school teams

Updated September 1, 2022 - 2:26 pm

A story in Monday’s Review-Journal said the Clark County School District no longer will require students and employees who are exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine.

For some high school football teams, the fallout of the pandemic continues to linger. After 2½ years, though, most worries about having enough players for two platoons finally have been pushed to the back burner.

“Policy-wise, we are where we were in 2019,” spokesman Bartt Davis said about the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association having removed COVID restrictions at the end of the 2021-22 basketball season and the individual school districts now lifting theirs. “No restrictions; no games canceled, postponed or whatever because of COVID.”

The pandemic preempted most of the 2020 high school season and carried over into the 2021 fall and winter seasons. New variant outbreaks resulted in the Clark County School District instituting a five-day “Stop the Spread” pause in January and contributed to hundreds of sporting events and activities being postponed or canceled, Davis said.

Moreover, “at the start of the year we were also dealing with smoke from wildfires and we had to rearrange some games because of a lack of officials,” Davis said about other situations that caused logistical and scheduling nightmares.

A lingering effect

While the paucity of officials continues to be an issue — “you never have as many as you want,” Davis said — a cursory glance at the football sidelines during the season’s first two weeks would suggest that numbers are up because COVID cases and restrictions are down.

But for some teams, it may still be another season or two before the quality of play returns to pre-pandemic levels.

“COVID hasn’t really been an issue as far as the number of kids (now playing) and getting kids to come back,” Centennial coach Dustin Forshee said. “We’re just kind of struggling (with) upperclassmen not necessarily being where they should be.”

Sitting out an entire season in addition to missing practice time and games last season when those upperclassmen were freshmen and sophomores prevented some from mastering football fundamentals, Forshee said.

“Last year we had maybe 12 or 14 seniors where most teams had 25-ish,” he said. “We played a lot of sophomores who are now juniors, so it is a better group than last year. But last year you could really tell.”

Moving on

An observer with a keen eye can still notice the drop-off this year. After losing to Liberty in the 2019 big schools’ state championship game, Centennial plummeted to 1-8 after the ill-fated 2020 season and is 0-2 in this one after being blown out by two 4A teams (although state champion Silverado is not a typical 4A opponent).

“You’re still feeling the effects from two years ago — or it could be just because we don’t have the same kids (as in 2019),” Forshee said about teams having to convene outside the school setting during COVID. “We did 7-on-7 (drills) at the park, but we didn’t do much (weight) lifting and the gyms were closed. A lot of people found a way. But some of the older kids got jobs or had other hobbies.”

Forshee said another lingering aspect about the pandemic is that it has resulted in some players proceeding with caution when it comes to their health.

“Little injuries, a bruise here or there, normally a kid rubs dirt on it,” he said about a euphemism for playing through injuries. “Now it’s like I have a bruise, I have to sit out a game or practice. In the past, that wasn’t an issue, because they played their freshman year, sophomore year and junior year” and realized minor injuries were part of being a football player.”

But until further notice, a running back testing positive for COVID and having the entire offensive line sit out for precautionary reasons has gone the way of fullbacks running with the football and coffin-corner punts. That’s a positive development of the highest order.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.