West Grand football team readies for fall season

Photo by Mike Wilson | "Football is back! The Mustangs had a full field of dedicated players ready to start this season. Only a few of the team are pictured as Coach Brown and Enriquez work with offense, while Coach Pedersen is off with his defense. Smiles all around. Unlike normal years the schedule will be set by CHSAA, once all of the teams have declared. It will be 6 regular season games. If a team misses the playoffs they can schedule one additional game. The first regular season game will be on or about Oct 8, with only 8 teams qualifying for the playoffs starting Nov 21"

by Marissa Lorenz
Recent decisions by Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE), and the Colorado High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) mean that there will be a fall football season for West Grand high school players and fans.

At the September 16 meeting of the CHSAA Board of Directors, the Board voted “to approve variances from the Governor’s COVID Response Team which will provide member schools with the local option to play field hockey, football and sideline spirit during the fall (Season A) season.”

Just prior to that meeting, the Governor’s office released a statement quoting the Governor. “We have worked closely with CHSAA to approve their request, issue guidelines and assist in creating a process that supports a return to football, field hockey and cheer. If the CHSAA board decides to add these sports to their fall calendars, it will be up to local school districts, administrators and parents to choose what is right for their communities. The state has approved these requests in order to empower all schools to make the choice that is right for them and their student athletes.”

Taken together, the variance and CHSAA decision means that local schools and districts can decide whether or not they will participate in a modified fall football season, which would normally run August through early October, or in an early spring season (March, April), that was determined in August as a response to safety concerns in relation to COVID-19. Schools cannot participate in both seasons.

West Grand has made the decision to play a regular fall season.

West Grand chose Season A after polling our coaches and the Western Slope League and by also looking at our county’s COVID case data,” explains Cori Kassib, West Grand Athletic Director. “These factors helped us determine that Season A would be the best fit for our school, community and student athletes.

While the decision was ultimately made by the Superintendent, Principal and Athletic Director, it was done with full support from the School Board and from listening to our community and our student athletes.”

Such a change in scheduling clearly has some challenges, but Kassib assures that the school has been in communication with Grand County Public Health about the possibility. “[We] have been waiting to move forward, if given the opportunity.” She further indicates that the school is prioritizing safety, scheduling, transportation, protocols, and procedures in their discussions and decision-making.

Students have already completed a three-day football camp, after school on September 21-23 and began official practices on September 24.

Upon the announcement by CHSAA, long-time Head Coach Chris Brown was ready to proceed with a fall season. “I was fine with a spring season because it would give schools a chance to see what was happening with COVID and perhaps avoid the challenges of potential quarantines, allowing for a season to be played all the way through. But I know that the kids would sure like to get going, and I’m okay with that.”
Kassib indicates that CHSAA has released a schedule, naming teams to be played during which week of the season but that the final season schedule is still being worked out between league athletic directors and will be released as soon as it becomes available.

West Grand belongs to the Northwest 8-Man League, which also includes Gilpin, Hayden, Plateau Valley, Rangely, Soroco, and Vail Christian. The season normally consists of seven games, six of which would be against fellow league members.

While a late start means some adjusting, there are other benefits to playing this fall, while volleyball has still not received a variance, points out Brown. In the case of extreme weather, football will now be able to practice in the gym, which is normally dedicated to volleyball practices and which space would not be available if the two sports had the same schedule during the snowier months of early spring.

Other fall sports
Spirit has also been approved, and the West Grand team held their first practice on Wednesday. Middle school football has not been decided on at this time. Middle school athletic directors are still
“considering the options.”

CHSAA has also requested a variance for volleyball and other indoor sports, but a variance has still not been approved by the CDPHE.

“We are grateful for the Governor’s office taking this request into consideration,” acknowledges Dr. Darrin Peppard, West Grand Schools Superintendent. “This is just one step, as the CHSAA board will still need to vote to resume season A for some traditional fall sports. We are disappointed, however, that the Governor’s office would not consider indoor sports at this time, specifically volleyball.”

“West Grand School District and High School will continue to advocate for our students and work to provide them with various opportunities to participate in athletic, activity, and extracurricular experiences,” adds High School Principal Liz Bauer. “We know how important these opportunities are for our young men and women as well as for our community. We are excited for the possibility.”

In the meantime, Kassib says, “Having Football and Sideline Cheer and Dance this fall has really heightened spirits on campus, and we hope this opportunity will bring some normalcy back to our community.”

To keep updated about West Grand athletics and other school activities, visit wgsd.us or follow the West Grand Booster Club on Facebook.