With air quality continuing to linger in the “unhealthy” zone throughout the Bay Area, North Coast Section athletics officials on Friday afternoon again postponed high school football playoff games.
Six quarterfinals involving seven high schools from Sonoma, Lake, Napa and Mendocino counties that had been rescheduled to Saturday were again postponed another week — until Nov. 24, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
The games were originally scheduled for Nov. 9 and 10, but were postponed after the massive and deadly Camp fire broke out Nov. 8, creating heavy smoke that blanketed Northern California far beyond its Butte County origin.
Only two second-round games, Division 5 Middletown at Fort Bragg and Rincon Valley Christian at South Fork in 8-person competition, have been played.
But all other quarterfinals were postponed because the air quality in host cities was above 150, the NCS limit for athletic competitions.
This week, the NCS — the governing body of the California Interscholastic Federation for North Coast schools — watched key air quality ratings in host cities and made day-to-day decisions on scheduling.
That kept schools, athletes, coaches, officials, families and others in limbo waiting to see when and where the games would be played.
“I’m full-steam ahead as if we’re going to play football until somebody tells me we’re not,” Ukiah football coach Jonathon Dewey said on Thursday. “On Monday, the bus showed up at Ukiah High and we sent it home.”
On Wednesday, the NCS executive committee met to consider what to do if the postseason tournaments in football and other sports couldn’t be completed before the state playoffs begin.
They decided to declare no section champions in football, tennis or water polo if championship games cannot be played.
In a second vote, the committee agreed to use head-to-head records to determine which team advances to the NorCal playoffs if a section championship game cannot be played.
If the two teams have not played each other or if they have split their games evenly, a coin flip will determine which squad advances.
At the CIF level, Friday’s NorCal girls tennis championships were canceled, as was the NorCal water polo tournament.
As of Friday morning, football coaches and athletic directors were still planning to play Saturday.
Meanwhile, rumors flew through the coaching ranks — that games would go on as scheduled, that they would be at noon instead of at night, that there could be double- or triple-headers at far-away locations.
The NCS asked athletic directors if they would be willing to send their teams north on Monday to communities such as Fortuna to get the games in. Many, but not all, said it would be possible.
But by mid-afternoon Friday, as air quality numbers stubbornly held far above 150 — with some readings into the mid-200s — the NCS postponed all football games for a week.
“There is too much involved with the unknown air quality, team travel, officials’ availability, the Thanksgiving week and schools out of session,” the announcement to schools read. “All quarterfinal games that have not been played yet will be pushed to Saturday, Nov. 24.”
Despite the additional delay, most school leaders said they were pleased to have a solid date and one that actually feels possible.
“We are thankful for the opportunity to be able to continue our season,” said Ty Yanez, athletic director at Ukiah. “We respect and support the NCS’ very difficult decision, as athlete health and safety is all of our primary concern.”