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Bay Area coaches, players react to new youth sports guidelines

Branham football players go through a practice on Feb. 18. Chris Jackson / Staff Photo
Branham football players go through a practice on Feb. 18. Chris Jackson / Staff Photo

At the end of Thursday’s practice, Branham head football coach Stephen Johnson told his team that he expected positive news was on the horizon.

That’s exactly the news he and many others across California received Friday morning.

California’s updated guidelines allowed for the return of outdoor high-contact sports beginning on Feb. 26, as long as counties are in the red or purple tier. Athletes in football, rugby and water polo will be required to get weekly testing in order to compete, while sports like baseball, cheerleading and softball can compete without weekly testing.

“The inner child in me is elated,” Johnson said.

With many other states having already played and concluded their seasons, California coaches and student-athletes were in limbo and playing the waiting game for sports to return after they were pushed back to the spring semester.

Friday gave them some news they longed for for so long, and coaches like Skyline head football coach Joe Bates – whose historical program has gone through a resurgence in recent years and just won nine games a year ago – are ecstatic regarding this opportunity for the players.

“It’s exciting news for our players to get a chance to build through another season,” Bates said. “It’s exciting to know our sophomores, juniors, and seniors can get more film to help them gather scholarship opportunities. It’s exciting to know we can take a team photo for the class of 2021 to cherish forever.”

At a fellow Oakland school in Bishop O’Dowd, first-year head football coach David Perry regurgitated the same thoughts and credited his players – especially the seniors – for sticking to the process the entire time.

“Our core beliefs – discipline, trust and honor – were established early on in the summer,” Perry said. “Our team, our players and our coaches have been outstanding throughout this whole pandemic. Without the ability to see my players from March through November I leaned heavily on our leaders Jesse Madden, Harrison Jenkins, Matt Shaddle, Alessandro Paez, Ty Jones and Benicio De Palm to keep our team together through thick and thin. They trusted the process, remained patient, they never wavered, now they get a chance to showcase the fruits of their labor. I am so fired up to get the season started.”

Athletes like San Ramon Valley junior quarterback Jack Quigley, who recently competed in the Winner Circle Athletics Champions League with Cal Strength and was recently named a West Coast Preps Athlete of the Week, had doubts whether they would get news like this, but here they are celebrating the latest piece of information from the state.

Quigley was a top-notch sophomore signal-caller at San Ramon Valley last season, throwing for 1,502 yards and 15 touchdowns in SRV’s run to a North Coast Section Division I quarterfinals appearance. Quigley earned a Division I offer from William & Mary less than one week after that campaign concluded.

Now, Quigley’s junior campaign with the Wolves is one step closer to happening.

“Didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to play with my brothers this year,” Quigley said. “But now it’s time. It’s go time. Go Wolves, baby.”

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