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Prep football passing league pushed back

Southern Oregon high school football players will need to wait a little longer to get back on the field in competition, and for good reason.

Having already had their workouts hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, moving forward as a community following wildfires that began destroying many parts of the region last Tuesday has taken precedence over slant routes and man-on-man coverages.

The Southern Oregon Passing League, a 7-on-7 competition for local high schools, had been slated to begin Sept. 24 but has now been pushed back to an Oct. 15 start date to give players, coaches and their families time to regroup and possibly see a return to healthy air quality.

“Our focus and energy is going towards helping out those communities affected by the fires and making sure that we are sensitive to their needs,” said Grants Pass football coach John Musser, who helped organize a fall season of the league, which typically occurs each July.

The new schedule runs for six weeks on Thursday nights, with Nov. 19 as the final night of play. Varsity and sub-varsity games will be scheduled, and programs will be matched accordingly by size.

The league had drawn interest prior to the delay from typical large-school participants North Medford, South Medford, Grants Pass, Ashland, Crater and Eagle Point, as well as schools from the Class 4A-2A levels in Cascade Christian, Hidden Valley, Illinois Valley, North Valley, Henley and Rogue River.

Musser said he’s still waiting to hear back from some schools to determine their interest and ability to compete this fall, and the final schedule won’t be released until the picture is more complete.

As previously reported, the 7-on-7 games will not feature typical round-robin play, with several schools gathering at one site, but instead will allow for only two schools squaring off per site across the valley at the usual venues like Spiegelberg Stadium, Mel Ingram Field and Dutch Meyer Stadium.

Unlike the regular summer events, spectators will not be permitted at the Thursday games to decrease the chances of a coronavirus outbreak. Game management officials will be at each site to turn away those who are looking to gain admittance.

Some schools, such as those in the Medford School District, were put on hiatus last month from any workouts until Oct. 5, so that had already played a part in the league delaying its start date. Nine practices are required before any competition can happen during this time period, which the Oregon School Activities Association has dubbed Season 1.

Musser said all safety protocols set forth by the OSAA, Oregon Health Authority and each corresponding school district will be adhered to for the 7-on-7 contests, which involve one-hand touch “tackling” and will take a decidedly less aggressive approach this fall considering the circumstances. No football equipment is donned for 7-on-7 play so that already adheres to state guidelines regarding full-contact activities.

Players will be required to wear masks and each program will provide a participation list for contact-tracing purposes.

Have a story idea? Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Crater football. MT file photo