With the cancellation of all fall sports, the likelihood of football being played this year seemed highly unlikely, yet a drop in the number of COVID cases along with pressure applied from the Let Them Play movement, has prompted a reversal in policy and as a result the two rivals plan to take the field after just three weeks of practice time.
It is a situation that generates a great deal of excitement, but at the same time some apprehension for both head coaches.
Pierce coach Anthony Tapia said he has enjoyed getting back in the swing of things and was cautiously optimistic heading into the game.
“On paper we do look good, but it’s been over a year since we played in the section championship game and we haven’t really proven anything yet. We haven’t been able to do much over the past year, so it’s been kind of fun re-teaching some of the stuff we were doing before. We have a whole new team and have position battles for a limited spots. Also, with the exception of Luke Voorhees and Alex Valencia, who were playing on varsity, the rest of this group lost to Williams at the JV level two years ago. Still, in a year where there are no championships, it’s nice to have the Rice Bowl to play for,” said Tapia, the Bears’ third year head coach.
In 2019, Pierce ended the season with an 8-5 record and as the NSCIF Division IV runner-up and would figure to be the favorite heading into Friday night’s game, however, the Yellowjackets are confident that they are up for the challenge, according to Williams head coach Jeff Lemus.
“I feel that our guys can compete. If we can stop the dive and force them into the gun, I believe we have the rush to make it a game. We are happy that our guys get to finally play a game this season. They have been working hard and are eager to get back on the field. The fact that our first game is against Pierce is huge. The Rice Bowl means a lot to these kids and both our communities,” said Lemus, who enters his second season as the ‘Jackets’ coach.
Although scheduled for Friday, the county’s COVID report that was issued on Tuesday was the determining factor on whether the game will actually be played.
Positivity results must not be above 14%, and even then attendance will be limited to those possessing school issued vouchers.