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SPECIAL REPORT: Miracle Season

How the Imperial Valley prep football teams played an improbable Spring season.

IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif., (KYMA, KECY) - The Corona Virus Pandemic had almost ended the hopes of every Imperial Valley prep student athlete of getting back on the field this past school year.

The pandemic triggered a world-wide social distancing movement, spilling into the Imperial Valley in the Spring of 2020.

Among the shutdowns, were the area's high schools and their athletic programs.

"I mean from coaches to everybody, we're just struggling, and our way of life."

Billy Brewer - Brawley Union High School Athletic Director

Prep football in the Valley was among all sports in complete lockdown.

Days would turn into weeks, and weeks into months.

The effects would linger longer than anyone anticipated.

"As It dwindled down further and further, closer to the springtime, I think a lot of the kids lost hope."

Jon Self - Brawley Union High School Head Football Coach

The year-long delay for football would come to an end in Late February, when both the California Interscholastic Federation and Imperial County's health director announced a reduction of athletic social distancing mandates, based on decreasing numbers of COVID cases.

All but one Imperial Valley program took on the challenge of getting ready for a condensed football season in only a 2 week timespan.

Even though the announcement of the return of the sport came as a quick surprise to many.

There was a statewide grassroots movement of parents, coaches and student athletes known as the "Let Them Play" movement, frustrated with California's lockdown policies.

"You go outside of the borders of our state, you know, people are like, what is California doing?"

Michelle Osuna - "Let Them Play" movement organizer

"The Let Them Play movement was, I call it the tip of the spear."

Ryan Rebollar - "Let Them Play" movement organizer

"It helped to keep it fresh in everybody's mind keep the CIF knowing, hey, these kids still want to play. These schools still want to compete."

Jon Self - Brawley Wildcats Head Football Coach

This movement began in early January, and took off almost overnight.

"Let Them Play" rallies sprung statewide, including one held in El Centro less than a month after it all started.

When the shortened and restricted season began in mid-March, a new reality set in for administrators, coaches and student athletes.

"It was very tough, a lot 0f zoom meetings. A lot of meetings, a lot of AAU activities."

Rookie Peña - Central Spartans Head Football Coach

"We are having to do a whole lot of different things on temperature checks, daily checklist and self checklists."

Joshua Wise - Central Spartans Head Football Coach

Even with all the teams following strict protection guidelines before and after hitting the field of play, it didn't stop a handful of game cancellations.

Ultimately, despite those few COVID cases, the miracle season played on to the end of Spring.

Whether or not the season was recognized as miraculous, all agree the hardest work of all was just getting there.

"It was a miracle season. It was a miracle that we got things done. But it was, it was due to a lot of outside work."

Rookie Peña - Central Spartans Head Football Coach

"I wouldn't call it a miracle season, I call it parent determination and doing it doing everything they can for the kids."

Ryan Rebollar - "Let Them Play" organizer

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Rob Fram

Rob Fram rejoined the KYMA News Team in February 2010.


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