Schedules don’t usually evoke emotional reactions, but this school year stands apart from others for East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) participants.
When the EBAL announced its modified schedule last week for sports in the red tier — football, baseball, softball and girls’ lacrosse — athletes and coaches finally had reason to cheer during these COVID-19 times. The EBAL football season will kick off on March 30 in the Mountain and Valley Divisions, following a smattering of nonleague contests. However, it is not as simple as putting a ball on a tee and blowing a whistle.
“There’s a lot of little loose ends that have to be tied up, but we’re definitely moving in the direction of retuning to play,” Foothill football coach Greg Haubner said.
Livermore coach John Wade was delighted to finally see a league schedule.
“It is pretty exciting,” he said. “You’re kind of always on the edge of your seat with everything else going on. The (Coronavirus) cases are going down all over the place, but we still have to test each week, and you just pray everything goes well.”
On Feb. 19, state health officials adjusted the colored tier system to allow high-contact sports to be played in the less-restrictive red or purple tiers in the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system, but only if coaches and players get tested once a week.
For Foothill and Amador Valley seniors, the prospect of being able to meet one last time in their storied football rivalry to end the season — on April 17 — probably seems like a dream come true after all the delays.
“So exciting,” Haubner said. “There’s no playoff; there’s no league title. This is what the kids want. They want to play their rival one more time. The fact that our seniors get to do that is really, really exciting. I’m so happy for our guys, because the months of November, December, and January sure did bring a lot of doubt."
Foothill will open the nonleague season at home against Livermore on March 13, which means the Falcons will be playing the Cowboys twice, also including a league game on April 10. To help simplify the process overall, Haubner scheduled only in-county games, except for March 30 at Dougherty Valley.
It is going to be a complicated season every step of the way.
"We’ve done a pretty decent job of minding our p’s and q’s, dotting i’s and crossing t’s, and taking care of business, as far as trying to minimize of the possibility of spreading the Coronavirus,” Haubner said. “There have been no cases of COVID-19 as a result of the Falcons’ football camp dating back to June. Only a couple of cases have evolved from kids socializing off campus.
At a recent EBAL meeting, Amador Valley was allowed to slide from the upper Mountain Division to the Valley to avoid possibly shedding games against teams from Contra Costa County, which might be at a different COVID-19 tier, according to Haubner. The Dons were thus inserted in everyone’s bye week for the Valley circuit. That means Amador Valley will open league play against Livermore on March 30.
Attrition from the virus has hurt roster numbers across the region, especially at the junior varsity and freshman levels.
“Our numbers are going to be down, but the kids have shown up consistently,” Haubner said. “The kids have been putting in the work and sticking with it. I’m very happy with that.”
Livermore will close the league season at rival Granada on April 17, when the Cowboys' seniors will no doubt have revenge in mind after falling to the Matadors last season. In another Valley Division opener on March 20, Granada is at Dublin. In the Mountain Division, Monte Vista opens at De La Salle, and California is at Clayton Valley Charter. San Ramon Valley is listed as having a bye.
EBAL baseball and softball teams can officially start practice on March 8, with league games beginning on April 20 for softball and April 21 for baseball. Girls’ lacrosse league games will start in April 9.
For complete EBAL schedules, in all tiers, visit theebal.com/2020-21.html.