Local student-athletes look forward to playing again as officials announce updated guidelines

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The state of California has finally given the go-ahead for outdoor youth sports to resume play during the pandemic.

The California Department of Public Health released updated guidance Friday for youth and recreational adult sports, which allows sports like football, baseball, gymnastics and cheerleading to resume as early as next week.

But those activities are only allowed in counties where COVID-19 case rates are at or below 14 people per 100,000. Players

“Once we got the news this morning, it was almost like Christmas,” said Richie Watts, quarterback for the Rocklin High School varsity football team.

After more than a year of not being able to play, Friday was the first day it officially appears there will be a season in 2021.

“Super excited to go and compete with my friends and get a couple of games in,” Watts told FOX40.

Over at Placer High School, their senior quarterback is just as excited.

“Everyone is just so anxious to compete and play,” said Martin Haswell. “It was always kind of weird to think, like, I might not have a chance to play, but now I am looking forward to playing Lincoln on our first game — our rival team.”

But that all depends on Placer County’s COVID-19 case rates. The latest numbers currently have the county at 10.3 cases per 100,000 people. 

Sacramento County is at 18.1 cases per 100,000 people.

Many rivalries will be renewed with high-contact outdoor sports like football and rugby resuming but only if all coaches and players 13 years and older get tested once a week.

“Every game is a blessing and we’re just going to run with it,” Watts said.

During a virtual press conference Friday, Let Them Play CA and the Golden State High School Football Coaches Association applauded the move by state leaders.

“I want to thank Gavin Newsom and I want to thank Jim DeBoo because it would have been just as easy to not listen to us as to listen to us. And they chose a higher path,” said Torrey Pines High School football coach Ron Gladnick.

Meanwhile, Watts’ mother, Tina, said she believes the new guidelines allow student-athletes to be safe while competing.

“I do think it’s going to be safe. I think that these boys have been conditioning and they’ve been preparing,” she said. “All our facts, data and evidence show it can be done safely. So as a parent, 110% I’m very excited to see him and his teammates out there.”

However, she said she’s disappointed indoor sports like basketball and volleyball are still not allowed.

“My daughter is a volleyball player,” Tina Watts explained. “You know, we want to be excited, but yet we also need to keep fighting for these kids that haven’t been given the green light.”

Richie Watts said he and his teammates are ready to get back to the gridiron.

“Just been texting with some of my buddies and everyone is over the moon right now,” he said. “We’re just getting that payoff.”

Based on the latest numbers, around 27 of California’s 58 counties would be able to have sports return under these new guidelines. Those numbers could change before some of these sports’ seasons begin.

Those numbers means some schools and coaches will have a lot of work to do soon.

“It has been absolute chaos,” said Oak Ridge High School coach Eric Cavaliere. “Between football, lacrosse and soccer — that’s boys and girls — we have 15 teams all operating at once now that all need the field space to practice.”

But coaches, players and parents agree those are much more simple problems to have after getting the green light to play.

“At the end of the day, we will take those hurdles at this point,” said Placer head football coach Joey Montoya.

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