The state of emergency order announced by Utah governor Gary Herbert Sunday night directly addressed high school sports — but it some ways it was a relief for prep football teams getting ready for the semifinals.
“Youth and high school students must not participate in extracurricular activities, including athletic and intramural events, for the duration of the order,” a statement on the state’s Coronavirus.Utah.Gov website said. “This does not limit intercollegiate athletic events, or practices and games associated with high school championships, that follow instructions for testing and limiting crowd size, as detailed in the order.”
Herbert said during his presentation that “students who participate in school activities outside the controlled school environment frequently get and spread COVID-19,” which was why sporting events were being postponed.
The Utah High School Activities Association issued a statement after the Herbert announcement acknowledging the situation but without announcing any new plans.
“The UHSAA is also aware of this evening’s (Sunday’s) State Health Order from Governor Herbert,” the statement said. “Association staff will work with the Governor’s Office and the State Health Department to understand the unique impacts to UHSAA activities, including the conclusion of the UHSAA State Football Championships and UHSAA winter activities. The UHSAA will communicate with member schools as soon as information is available on protocols and procedures moving forward. The safety of students and Utah communities will continue to be paramount to the Association and its member high schools.”
Lone Peak head coach Bart Brockbank said that the situation has been a roller-coaster ride for the athletes as they have been trying to get ready to face rival Skyridge in the 6A semifinals.
“We had heard the state was going to make some changes and we were trying to figure out whether we were going to play or not,” Brockbank said Monday afternoon. “That was a huge anxiety moment. We are happy to be playing.”
The “Frequently Asked Questions” section on the state COVID-19 website clarified some of the details regarding the high school football playoffs:
“A high school football practice or game is allowed if all of the following requirements are met:
- “Each participant including coaches, trainers, staff members, and athletes must wear a face mask. Athletes are allowed to take their face masks off while playing.
- “Spectators are limited to the participating athletes, coaches, trainers, and staff members. In addition, each athlete, coach, trainer, or staff member is allowed to bring 2 guests only to games.
- “Spectators must wear a face mask.
- “Spectators must stay at least 6 feet from people they don’t live with.
- “Coaches, trainers, staff members, and athletes must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours before the game.”
Brockbank said implementation of the testing requirement is still unclear.
“I think that is the most unknown thing right now,” he said. “There aren’t any clear rules that if you have so many test positive then they shut you down. There is also how they will handle the possibility of false positives. We’re still a little uneasy but we’re just moving forward like any other team.”
He said the message to the players is that they have new life.
“If they really felt like they needed to shut us down, then they had the perfect opportunity to do it,” Brockbank said. “This created focus for the kids. They are going to prepare and assume that after everything we’ve been through, they are going to let us finish out the next two weeks.”
The 5A and 6A state semifinals are currently slated to take place at Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain.
The 6A games will take place first with Lone Peak playing Skyridge at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Corner Canyon will face East in the first game that day at 2 p.m.
The 5A games are scheduled for Friday with Timpview playing Salem Hills at 2 p.m. and Orem playing Maple Mountain at 7 p.m.
Other high school sports, which would currently include basketball and wrestling practices as well as swimming and diving practices and competitions, are postponed for at least two weeks as per the governor’s orders.