Baker football

The Baker Bulldogs won’t return to the football field until February 2021.

The Baker School District athletic director and the Baker High School head football coach said they understand why Oregon’s high school sports governing agency decided to postpone fall sports until 2021.

The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) announced Wednesday that football, volleyball, soccer and cross-country will move to the spring of 2021.

“I was happy that we had something,” said Buell Gonzales Jr., Baker School District athletic director. “After that I was able to study it and I thought it was thoughtful, it’s not a one size fits all, which I was very appreciative of.”

Jason Ramos, in his second year as Baker High School varsity football coach, said he has empathy for OSAA’s executive board.

“The OSAA kind of had to do what they did, because kids need to be in school if they need to be involved in activities,” Ramos said. “I guess I was kind of disappointed with the metrics in keeping the kids out of school.”

The OSAA’s schedule calls for all three sports seasons — fall, winter and spring — to be played during 2021.

The schedule:

• Winter sports — basketball, wrestling and swimming. First practice date is Dec. 28, 2020, with the first contest date of Jan. 11, 2021.

• Normal fall sports season, including football, volleyball, soccer and cross-country. First practice date is Feb. 22, 2021, with the first contest date of March 8.

• Traditional sports season, including baseball, softball, tennis, golf and track and field. First practice date is April 19, with the first contest date of May 3.

Gonzale sees challenges with the condensed schedule.

“When we get closer we need to see what counties are in position to play and what counties aren’t,” he said. “That is a foreseeable problem when some of the traditional schools you are used to playing aren’t ready.”

Weather is a possible factor as well.

Ramos said he’s concerned about football and other outdoor fall sports happening during February and March, when snow is hardly uncommon in Baker County.

“It is generally a concern for us, you wonder sometimes if that was taken into consideration,” Ramos said. “There are places that will struggle to have the right weather at that time, we just want to have the opportunity to play and put the safety measures in place, but that is something that we will tackle when it happens.”

Alhough no OSAA-sanctioned football will happen this fall, Ramos said he’s encouraging players to be optimistic.

“I keep telling our kids that we are going to play football, we just don’t know when,” Ramos said. “Ideally, I would like to maybe be able to do a scrimmage but that’s out there. More realistically I would like the guys to get in and work out this fall in preparation, maybe do some seven on seven at least amongst ourselves.”

The OSAA also designated the fall as a season when non-sanctioned events could potentially happen at the discretion of individual school districts. If students are able to return to in-person classes during the fall, some level of competition is possible.

“If Powder Valley is in the same boat we are, we can play them in volleyball,” Gonzales said.

For middle school students, again the challenge is the compressed and overlapping seasons.

“We might have wrestling, girls and boys basketball at the middle school all at the same time,” Gonzales said. “Kids might have to choose because before you had the option to do both. I rather have the choice to play either rather than neither.”

Gonzales also encourages athletes to stay in touch with their coaches in case they have to miss a week or two or practice.

“That is something that the coaches and the athletic department is more than willing to work with,” he said.

Though sports would be a welcoming sight to the Baker School District, Gonzales knows what the bigger task at hand is for the students, and that is having them safely back in the classroom.

“We got to get to in-person schooling, we have to commit to what it takes,” Gonzales said. “Once we get to in-person schooling then we are rolling.”

For updates on how school athletics are moving forward, Gonzales Jr. encourages parents and students to keep an eye out for all of his platforms; including the Baker Bulldog Nation Facebook page for updated news for sports here in the Baker School District. He also intends to set an informational Zoom meeting for any parents or student athletes that have questions about the OSAA’s new school activities calendar in the future.

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