Tom Snook, Vale High School athletic director, works to clear snow off the football field last week. The Vikings, along with other local prep football teams, will open the 2021 season Friday. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – Local grid squads will hit the grass this weekend as part of a new season but they will do so under strict Covid restrictions set by the Oregon School Activities Association and school districts.

Jeff Aldred, Vale High School varsity football coach, said the Vikings are ready for their first football game against Baker Friday in Vale at 7 p.m.

“The practices are going pretty well. I can’t complain about that,” said Aldred.

The Vikings will make their opening home stand against a seasoned Bulldog squad that reached the quarterfinals in 2019.

“I expect them to be tough,” said Aldred.

The Bulldogs finished the 2019 season with a 6-4 record but lost to Banks, 34-14 in a state quarterfinal contest.

“We are going to take it week to week,” said Aldred.

The changes for this spring’s four-game season are abundant.

Malheur County teams will compete inside a hybrid OSAA conference this spring that includes teams from the 3A Eastern Oregon League – Vale and Nyssa – with football squads from the 4A Greater Oregon League – La Grande, Ontario and Baker City. Each team will play a four-game league schedule with room to add a fifth. There will be no playoffs.

There will also be very few spectators. Aldred said there will be very specific exceptions. For example, he said, parents of senior cheerleaders and players will get passes for two games.

“Grandpa and grandma can’t come and brother and sister probably can’t come but mom and dad can,” said Aldred.

Other than the passes, no spectators will be allowed at games.

Games, though, will be live streamed on the National Federation of High School sports at https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/schools/vale-high-school-vale-or.

New changes include the team box on the sidelines will be extended to the 10-yard line because 6 feet of physical distancing between players and officials and chain gang personnel will be required.

The coin toss before the game will continue with one “designated representative from each team” observing the 6-foot distance rule, according to the OSAA.

There will be no handshakes before or after the game.

Players and coaches will also be screened before each game for Covid symptoms and questioned regarding their health. Signage describing Covid, mask requirements and social distancing will be necessary at each contest.

The game host is required to designate a cleaned and “disinfected area for teams to unload and load buses separate from fans, spectators, and other individuals not essential to the team or group,” according to OSAA guidance.

The other key guidance from the OSAA is to clean, clean and clean some more in areas where players tend to congregate – such as locker rooms – and other areas like press boxes.

The Vale and Baker contest isn’t the only game this Friday. In Adrian, the Antelopes will play Ione beginning at 1 p.m. In Ontario, the Tigers will host Nyssa for a 7 p.m. game.

“The kids are excited. We will still give it our best shot to put a good product out on the field,” said Aldred.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

Previous coverage:

Ready for some football? Governor's announcement paves the way for contact sports to resume

Malheur County football teams gear up for a new and shortened season

Malheur County's high school sports year scrambled - football in the spring

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