Oregon high school football is back! New guidance will allow for a full-contact football season this spring

By René Ferrán

Governor Kate Brown announced Wednesday upcoming changes to Oregon Health Authority (OHA) guidance that will allow for a full-contact football season this spring.

In a news release, the governor said that beginning this week, outdoor contact sports will be permitted to resume with health and safety protocols based on each county’s risk level.

In High Risk and Extreme Risk counties such as those in the Portland, Salem, Eugene, Bend and Medford areas, schools can opt in to resuming outdoor contact sports with additional protocols in place, such as:

  • Offering onsite responsive testing for symptomatic individuals and close contacts;
  • Contact information for contact tracing; and
  • A waiver identifying health and safety risks and a commitment to isolation and quarantine if exposed to COVID-19.

Schools in Extreme and High-Risk counties must also have at least limited in-person instruction occurring, according to the news release, with the goal of achieving hybrid or full in-person instruction for students this school year.

Schools in Lower and Moderate risk counties can resume outdoor contact sports such as football following health and safety guidance to be issued by the OHA.

“To all of Oregon’s high school athletes: I am asking you now to be leaders in your communities,” Brown said in the release. “We’ve given you the chance to play, but with that opportunity comes great responsibility. If COVID-19 numbers spike, we may have to shut down contact sports again.

“It is not lost on me that this decision today will allow high school football to resume, when too many high school classrooms across Oregon remain empty. To all the parents of student-athletes and coaches who have called and emailed me in the last year asking for school sports to resume, I am challenging you now to devote your energy to making sure in-person academics can resume for your kids, too. If our school gyms, fields, and weight rooms are to reopen, we owe it to Oregon’s children to make sure our classrooms, libraries, and science labs fully reopen as well.”

OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber had expressed optimism at Monday’s Executive Board meeting that this news would be forthcoming.

“We’re very excited about today’s announcement by Gov. Brown that provides increased access for high school students to outdoor contact sports per state guidelines,” Weber said. “We are awaiting clarification from the Governor’s Office and OHA regarding the protocols required for schools in High and Extreme Risk counties in order to opt in to outdoor contact sports. We look forward to supporting our schools in their continuing efforts to return students to participation.”

For most part, coaches react favorably to governor’s announcement

Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury was ecstatic about the news as well but added, “There’s a lot of things to do from an organizational standpoint now. I know we’re in a crunch spacewise with all the sports going on, and there’s a lot of things to be put together, and in a hurry, to get cracking, but that’s the least of our problems. 

“The kids now have that good feeling back again, and I think there will be an appreciation all the way around. They will do anything to keep it going. Football was taken away from them, and once they got it back, they appreciate it more.”

Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne agreed with Coury’s belief that players and coaches statewide will do whatever it takes for a successful six-week season to take place.

“Our players have done an exceptional job adhering to the protocols throughout the pandemic and will continue to do what is asked of them so that they can play an entire schedule,” Pyne said. “We are very thankful and excited that our players will have a chance to compete. It has been a long haul to get to this point. We can’t wait to get back on the field.”

Jesuit coach Ken Potter was especially happy for the seniors on his roster who would get a final high school season.

“They have put in so much time to have an opportunity,” he said. “I am excited for all the football players in the state of Oregon for the opportunity to do something they love and to do so with their friends.”

Grant coach John Beck, who as a board member with the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association (OACA) also serves on the OSAA Executive Board, took part in Monday’s Executive Board meeting when it approved options for 7-on-7 and flag football if Wednesday’s announcement had not occurred.

“Giving kids an opportunity to play safely is so greatly appreciated,” Beck said. “I am so excited that this opportunity will give our players some sense of normalcy and help with their social and emotional health. Thank you to all of the people who worked so hard to help give the kids this opportunity.”

One coach who was more guarded in his assessment of Wednesday’s announcement was Beaverton’s Bob Boyer.

Boyer questioned, “Did they kick the can to the districts, or did they say, ‘Yes, go ahead, let’s do it?’

“The water is a little less muddy than it was yesterday, but it’s still mucky. It’s a step closer, and that’s great for the kids, but let’s get going already one way or the other.”

Earlier from SBLive Oregon:

Could the Oregon high school football season switch to a 7-on-7 format? ‘If this is our only option for a season, then we will play our hearts out’

What might OSAA’s ‘culminating events’ look like in Oregon high school sports? Football coaches intrigued by possibility of ‘bowl week’

Could an Open Division playoff work in Oregon high school football?

Oregon all-state football 2020-21: The state’s top returning high school football players

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