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High school football cleared to return in Santa Barbara County
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High school football cleared to return in Santa Barbara County

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As expected, Santa Barbara County met the criteria for high school football to make its long-awaited return.

The California Department of Public Health altered its return-to-play guidelines on Feb. 19, providing a clear to path for football, water polo and soccer competition to return to the state.

Counties had to have an adjusted case rate of less than 14 per 100,000 for those outdoor, high-contact sports to return.

On Tuesday, Santa Barbara County's adjusted case rate was unveiled to be 13.0, meaning high schools can start preparing for a season that kicks off on March 19. 

High schools could begin practicing with helmets and shorts Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and hold full padded practices by Friday. They could continue practicing next week, hold a scrimmage March 12 or 13 and have bona fide games on March 19. 

The CIF Southern Section season runs through April 17, while the CIF Central Section season runs through April 23. 

Righetti High, for instance, is scheduled to play a five-game schedule with the first game at Arroyo Grande on March 19. The Warriors then play at Paso Robles on March 26, host Templeton on April 2, play San Luis Obispo at home on April 9 and host St. Joseph on April 16.

The Warriors have left April 23 open in case they need to make-up a game or could possibly add a game.

Santa Barbara County schools would need to test players and coaches in order to play football or water polo games unless the adjusted case rate is below 7 by the time the season starts. 

In San Luis Obispo County, meanwhile, the adjusted case rate dropped to 6.8, meaning SLO County schools can play without testing players and coaches.

In football, Santa Maria and Morro Bay are slated to play on March 19 and Morro Bay and Pioneer Valley will play on March 26. Nipomo plays Morro Bay on April 1. 

St. Joseph is set to play at Paso Robles on March 19, at Arroyo Grande on March 26, at SLO on April 2, at home vs. Templeton on April 9 and at Righetti to close out the season.

Channel League schools, including Santa Ynez, Lompoc and Cabrillo, were still finalizing their schedules. Though the Channel League had revised its football lineup for the 2020 season, the league was planning to play a schedule that mirrored the 2019 campaign.

There are no sectional or state playoffs this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

There are currently league-only schedules being devised in the area. 

Likely only immediate family members will be allowed at games.

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