‘A sigh of relief’: Summit High School football is on for fall

Football helmets are pictured at the Summit High School Tigers homecoming game Oct. 11, 2019. Athletics and Activity Director Travis Avery announced Monday, Sept. 21, that Summit football would play this fall.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

FRISCO — High school football is back on for fall.

Summit High School Athletics and Activity Director Travis Avery sent a letter to families Monday, Sept. 21, announcing the decision. The Tigers football team will begin practicing Thursday, Sept. 24. 

“What a relief it is to finally have a decision made about when we’re going to play,” Summit football coach James Wagner said Monday. “I’m just so thankful and happy for not only the way in which we’ve been able to remain safe through all this, No. 1; No. 2, the job our athletic director’s done to allow us to get to this point where we can play; and then I’m just so thankful that the kids have the opportunity to play.”

After touching base with a few students, Wagner said it’s clear that the players are excited. He said it’s been an emotional rollercoaster for staff and students and that the news has been met with “a sigh of relief.”  

“They’ve just been hurting because they see other states competing and seeing other states have success with the way in which they’re doing things, and they wanted to have the opportunity,” Wagner said.

The announcement comes amid a dizzying September for the state’s high school football programs. As part of a four-season prep sports calendar announced in early August, the Colorado High School Activities Association said high school football would be played in the spring. High school football programs across the state weren’t thrilled with the March start for the season, particularly mountain communities where March and April are reliably snowy.

On Sept. 7, CHSAA and Gov. Jared Polis announced that the two were open to working together to bring football back to fall. Two days later, the CHSAA board voted to keep the four-season calendar unchanged, citing concerns that parents already had planned for the new schedule and that some athletes had committed to other fall sports. Two days after that, CHSAA said it was resubmitting proposals for football and other fall sports to the governor’s office, and Polis said there might be a window open for a fall season.

CHSAA voted Wednesday, Sept. 16 to allow individual districts to decide when they’d like to play. The decision empowered districts and schools to come to the best decisions for their student-athletes. Members and officials of Summit’s football conference, the 3A Western Slope League, met Thursday, Sept. 17, to discuss, ultimately deciding on fall.

Wagner said the school chose to move forward with a fall football season over a spring season for a number of reasons, including player’s mental health, weather, athlete schedules and concerns that a spring season isn’t guaranteed. 

“One part of it was the mental health of these kids,” Wagner said. “They’re so used to having sports in their lives, and we know how much athletics is a big part of high school kids. It gives them something to work for, it gives them something to buy into. There’s so many aspects of the game itself that relate to life, and there’s so many lessons they can learn in sports that help you get through so many hard and trying times.” 

Wagner said that since practice and conditioning started in June, there haven’t been any sick kids. Wagner said that with all the hard work the players have done this summer, the upcoming season is a chance for them to showcase what they’ve been working on. 

Addressing safety

Last week, CHSAA announced COVID-19 precautions for leagues that decided to play in the fall. Those precautions include allowing 50 players per sideline to be on the field during a football game, requiring all event participants to wear a mask while not actively playing and requiring team members to be 6 feet apart from nonhousehold members on the sidelines.

In addition to a valid physical or well-child check, Summit players will be required to undergo daily health screenings prior to athletic participation and will have to wear a mask at all times during practices and travel, according to the letter sent to parents.

Avery explained Monday that some of the regulations could change based on the public health rules in the county where the game is held, including whether spectators will be allowed. The letter to parents warned that spectator access likely will be limited or eliminated, depending on the host. Avery said conversations with public health indicate that Summit should be able to have a limited number of spectators at its home games. 

Overall, Avery said the Tigers will have a lot of details to work through to make the season happen on such short notice. 

“My experience with doing athletics with COVID … is you’ve got to rethink almost everything you do … ,” Avery said.

The letter to families also noted that any games missed during a teamwide quarantine will not be rescheduled and that if the season ends early, the team will not be able to revert to a spring season. 

“As with so many things these days, we’re going to certainly ask patience and understanding of our families and stress compliance in order to have this season,” Avery said.

Editor’s note: Antonio Olivero contributed to the reporting on this story.

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