High school football returns in San Jose with excitement, gratitude after COVID-delayed season

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The pandemic led to a delay of all high school sports across the state of California with teams not able to play games until spring of this year.

Just four months later, Oak Grove and Branham High Schools returned to the gridiron for some fall football in San Jose.

It may just be a scrimmage, but you couldn't tell from the excitement on the field.


"Obviously a lot of things have been taken away from us in the 18 or some odd months, so it's allowing our guys to be thankful or remember what they may have lost, whether that be more or less than other families," Branham Varsity Football head coach Stephen Johnson said. "They can be grateful for now coming back and not take that for granted again."

"Football has been something that I've been playing ever since I was a kid," Oak Grove Varsity Football senior Rahema Sosimi said. "I will do whatever it takes to keep playing, but it definitely feels better to be back."

California was one of the only states in the country to not play football on time last year.

COVID-19 not only delayed the season, but parents say it created struggles for these students off the field.

Tonight, football began to solve the problems.

"I know personally some kids that had to drop out because they didn't have sports," Oak Grove Parent Jesse Dominguez said. "So this being back is very important and it's just awesome."

"There's only so much you can do in your own backyard," Branham Parent Mindy Carpenter said. "So just to be back here and be back in this environment is just so exciting."

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Teams no longer face such strict protocols regarding masks and fan attendance, but the threat of the Delta variant still looms.

The question was asked in our education town hall on Friday, is it safe for athletes to play high school sports right now?

ABC7 News Special Correspondent Dr. Alok Patel said there is a big difference between indoor and outdoor sports.

He added that data shows that not all outbreaks on teams are caused by game action, it is sometimes in locker room or other team settings.

His simple message - if the team's want to keep the season going, it takes everyone to create a safe environment.

"It's very incumbent on parents and youth athletes, coaches and everyone out there to make sure that their athletes are practicing all those safe hygiene techniques and doing everything they can, not only on the sports field or the swimming pool or basketball court or tennis court, but everywhere surrounding it," Dr. Patel said.

"You know, we are still really trying to let the kids know we're not out of it," Oak Grove Varsity Football Head Coach Marcus Reese said. "The reason we're playing this team actually is because of certain cancellations. But I definitely want the kids to have fun."

"We're doing everything we can to ensure we have a season because the last thing we want is it to get cancelled because of COVID or for anybody to get sick or hurt in anyway," Branham Varsity Football Senior Adi Arora said.

While there was no official winner on the scoreboard, the true victory was getting football back once again.

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