Are you ready for some football?
Judging by the reaction of Pahrump Valley High School football players upon learning there would, in fact, be a season, the answer is a resounding yes.
Trojans coach Joe Clayton informed his players after practice Wednesday that the season that was rescheduled for spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic was on after Gov. Steve Sisolak lifted the state’s ban on full-contact sports.
The decision on whether to play sports is in the hands of the individual school districts. Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Director Bart Thompson said the Clark County School District is the only one of 17 school districts in the state that has opted out of the fall season.
That will have a major impact on Pahrump Valley’s schedule, which in its pre-pandemic form included only Clark County schools, although Moapa Valley was exempt from the CCSD decision because that rural school has had in-person instruction, something CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara has deemed a prerequisite to fielding athletic teams.
But for six weeks, the Trojans can play football, and whoever the opponents will be really doesn’t matter at this point. Especially for the seniors, hearing Wednesday’s news ended months of ambiguity.
“After the time we put in, it’s amazing,” senior Fabian Soriano said, adding that the Trojans have been practicing hard all along.
“We’ve been operating just as if we were going to compete next week, and we told them that from day one,” Clayton said. “We have to approach it that way.”
“It felt pretty good,” senior Rance Bill said of hearing the news. “The team is pretty excited.”
Cheers and applause greeted Clayton’s announcement, although some of the veterans said it wouldn’t make much difference on the way the team practices.
“I don’t think it will change,” Jacob Lopez said. “We’re always that competitive.”
But even though coaches had indicated they thought they would play, there was always an element of uncertainty hanging over Trojan Field.
“We always had that doubt,” Lopez said.
“We were kind of in the middle,” Andrew Avena agreed. “We didn’t really know what was going on. Now it’s for sure, so we’re happy.”
Sisolak was aware of the reaction he would get.
“I know you’ve been waiting for this,” a masked Sisolak said before delivering the news that full-contact sports may resume practice and competition. The governor said the NIAA must develop a mandatory testing and mitigation plan that school districts must agree with in order to compete. Standard mitigation measures — capacity limits, social distancing, masks, etc. — will be in place, and schools will be responsible for ensuring they are met.
Donnie Nelson, the co-assistant director of the NIAA, said there would be meetings well into Wednesday night for that purpose. Clayton told his players there also would be a coaches meeting that evening to discuss the procedures going forward.
While official football practices were allowed beginning Feb. 13, full practice for all other fall sports is permitted beginning Saturday. What happens when the season begins is still an open question.
“We have a couple of tentative schedules already, now that they know it’s opened up and once they approve the COVID protocols, I think it’s just a matter of approving a schedule,” Clayton said. “They’re kind of waiting on a couple of schools on whether they’re officially participating or not.”
The fall sports season, which includes football, soccer, cross country, tennis and girls volleyball, is scheduled to begin competition March 5 and run through April 10. There will not be any state tournaments, and region tournaments are up to the discretion of the schools in each region.
“We don’t have all the details yet,” Clayton said. “Nobody does. But we do know that we’re going to play football.”
And the seniors are convinced the Trojans will be ready for that.
“I think we’re going to be pretty solid,” Bill said.
Clayton was even more confident.
“It doesn’t matter how it’s set up,” the winningest coach in PVHS history told his team. “We’re going to win the whole thing.”