CORONA, Calif. — High school football teams in California have not been back on the field in full since March 13, 2020.
Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has seen the postponement of the fall season, the cancellation of all fall sports championships, and the rise of an alternative league based in Southern California.
What You Need To Know
- Current state guidelines still prohibit youth sports competitions, aside from cross country, in the majority of counties in California
- Winner Circle Athletics in Corona launched its club football league, the Champions League, in December
- Over 1,500 athletes and 20 teams participated in the first season of games
- California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) is still working towards an abbreviated season that may start in March and run through the end of April
Back in December, Winner Circle Athletics — an elite training facility in Corona — announced that they would be putting together a club football league called the Champions League.
While the playing of high school football at that time went directly against guidance from the California Department of Public Health, founder Jordan Campbell believed he was operating for the greater good. Players, he explained, needed a platform to play as an outlet for their mental and emotional health.
Many high school seniors, like Centennial's Calvin Pitcher and Rancho Cucamonga's Devin Collins, needed the exposure to help in their journey to play at the next level.
"I wouldn’t have any tape by now," said Pitcher. "I would’ve missed my entire senior season completely. But this gave me an opportunity to get my name out there and show what I can do."
During the club football season, Pitcher and Collins received scholarship offers and committed to Idaho State for the coming year. They joined with over 1,500 other high school players and over 20 different teams in getting back on field.
"I feel like a lot of kids don’t have an opportunity to play," Collins said. "Being able to play, we can get our film out and go to college. It’s a great opportunity to be out here."
And while there are thousands who have played in and supported the Champions League, it has also seen its share of controversy.
Take a quick look through social media and you'll find plenty who are skeptical of the rise in club football and who are worried about the safety of its practices and games. There is also a growing concern that in the coming months, it will become a choice of club football versus CIF football — long the standard for education-based athletics.
However, if you ask CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod, there is no replacing the CIF season and culture.
"There’s one Friday night lights, and that’s us," Wigod said. "There’s one education-based athletic football environment, and that’s at the high schools, with fans and the cheer teams and the community. That’s not what the club environment is."
Wigod and the rest of the CIF State department are still working towards an abbreviated high school football season that would wrap up at the end of April.
Recently, their cause has been championed by parents and coaches throughout the state, through a movement called Let them Play. The Facebook page has garnered over 50,000 members, has written letters and held press conferences directed at California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and is looking to work with Health Secretary Mark Ghaly to carve out a path to play.
Spectrum News 1 expects a new update on the high school sports season in the coming days.