“Helmets off, masks on” yelled Golden High School football coach Jared Yannacito as the team got set to begin their stretches at the start of their second practice of the season on Sept. 25. It's …
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“Helmets off, masks on” yelled Golden High School football coach Jared Yannacito as the team got set to begin their stretches at the start of their second practice of the season on Sept. 25.
It's not a phrase one would expect to hear at a football practice, except in the year 2020 where it will become commonplace as Yannacito and coaches across Jeffco attempt to navigate playing a football season in the midst of a pandemic that nearly moved the season to the spring.
“It feels awesome, its so exciting to be back out here,” said Yannacito. “Every single day we are out here it is a gift and I am approaching that way.”
Jefferson County Public Schools' high schools recently joined what the Denver Post reported on Sept. 22 was a total of 218 teams in making the decision to play this fall after the Colorado High School Activities Association announced it was reversing course on the decision to postpone the season.
MORE: Link to Jeffco schools' football schedule
Jim Thyfault, the executive director of athletics and activities for the district, said it was a combination of factors, including test positivity rates being in the 2% rate at the time the decision was made and the success the district has had with starting other fall sports, including softball and tennis, that CHSAA approved to begin on time that led the district to move forward with participating in fall football.
“We determined that the fall would probably be best just in the sense that we are being given the opportunity to play now and we should probably take the opportunity because we don't know what spring might bring,” Thyfault said. “If we opted to play in spring and got to March and there was a shutdown like last year and we passed up the opportunity to play in the fall we felt like there wouldn't be very many happy people.”
But while the season is now going ahead, this will not be a season as Jeffco's teams and fans have come to know it. For one, it will be shorter at six games as opposed to the usual 10. For another, it is not yet known how many fans will be to attend games—or whether anyone might be able to at all.
Thyfault said it will be up to Jeffco Public Health to make that decision, which is not expected until the week prior to the start of games on Oct. 8. It will also ultimately be up to Jeffco Public Health to determine whether the season needs to be postponed or canceled if it determines that cases have increased to a point that it no longer makes sense for football to continue.
However, Thyfault said he is feeling confident that won't happen and cited the lack of issues with the fall sports like softball and tennis that have already started playing, as well as the team's commitment to safety. He described the coaches as being very in tune with guidelines that have been established for football and said he has directed all teams to assign an assistant coach to be the COVID coach responsible for making sure guidelines and expectations are followed.
"We're very much sure that we're following the protocol, and doing things the right way, because we don't want to jeopardize, you know, not having the opportunity to play,” he said.
For Golden High School quarterback Joey Mancuso, the chance to get to compete is an exciting, if bittersweet, one.
“It is a little disappointing that we won't have all the normal fun parts of football season like homecoming games and a ton of fans, packed stadiums and things like that,” he said. “But we understand why we can't have those things and are excited to be out here practicing with the team.”
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