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Football games up in air

FOOTBALL: Local contests could be postponed due to poor air quality; teams have been trying to improvise.

October 25, 2007|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza

Wednesday marked the 12th day since the last time Estancia High’s football team was in full gear.

Coach Mike Bargas blamed a bye week and the fires in Orange County for Estancia not being able to return to its normal routine this week.

Estancia is one of five football programs in the Newport-Mesa area, just as the rest of the local high school and college athletic teams, affected by the nearby fires polluting the air with smoke, gas and dust, forcing teams to cancel, postpone and alter practices and live events because of the unhealthy air quality.

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Four of the high school football teams have their games scheduled Friday night at 7, with Corona del Mar playing Saturday night. With the extra day, CdM Coach Dick Freeman still isn’t optimistic the game at Irvine will be played.

“If I could predict the weather, I’d have a better job,” said Freeman, whose team like the rest of the local teams are playing their league schedule, where records determine which schools advance to the postseason.

Paul Orris, CdM’s athletic director, said the Newport-Mesa Unified School District is treating the situation day-to-day and added that he wouldn’t be surprised if the local games are postponed until next week.

“If you look 100 feet away, it looks relatively clear, but you don’t see all the [dangerous] stuff that’s in the air and harmful to breathe,” Orris said. “I understand [the NMUSD] is trying to protect the kids’ health and safety. It does set us back with some of our game plans. But I think it would be foolish not to err on the side of caution because these are just games.”

It will be up to the schools if they decide to postpone or cancel games, said Thom Simmons, director of communications for the CIF Southern Section, which governs high school sports for most of the Southland, with 565 member schools.

“There’s a misconception that we run these regular-season games, but the schools, the school districts know the danger and the quality of air in their area better than we do here in Los Alamitos,” said Simmons, referring to the section’s offices. “What’s affecting Orange County might not be affecting Barstow. We’re 35 miles away from the nearest fire and it’s affecting everyone in the Southland.

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