Playoffs postponed by Camp Fire smoke: 'Football seems so little right now.'

James Burns

With worsening Air Quality Index levels forecasted through the weekend — and little valley wind to lift the smoke — the Sac-Joaquin Section has postponed Friday and Saturday’s playoff football games.

“The Sac-Joaquin Section, after constant contact with  various air quality boards throughout the region, has determined some playoff changes must be made due to worsening air quality expected through the weekend,” the section said in a press release.

Locally, seven football games have been impacted, including Saturday’s section final between top-seeded Denair and Golden Sierra. Those games are: Inderkum at Central Catholic, Division II; Oakdale at Rio Linda, Division IV; Bear River at Ripon and Sonora at Colfax, Division V; Ripon Christian at Modesto Christian and Escalon at Hilmar, Division VI; and Denair vs. Golden Sierra, at Liberty Ranch, Division VII final.

The games will now be played on Nov. 23 and 24.

The championship breakfast, originally scheduled for Monday, Nov. 19, will be held Nov. 26 at Hutchins Street Square in Lodi at 10 a.m.

"We don't worry about things we can’t control," said Modesto Christian coach Mike Parsons, whose team will be on its third bye in five weeks. "We went in the gym today and walked through some stuff and got some exercise in. I mean, what do you do? It’s a tough deal, but football seems so little right now. We're just taking it day by day."

The announcement came one day after the CIF State Office decided to push back its regional and state bowl calendar by one week, creating leeway in the postseason schedule for those sections affected by the fire. With unhealthy levels of smoke in the forecast for communities throughout the Sac-Joaquin Section, officials decided to err on the side of caution.

The Camp Fire has burned more than 138,000 acres and claimed at least 56 lives, according to Thursday morning's reports, making it the deadliest wildfire in state history. Fire crews have achieved only 35 percent containment. Unhealthy and hazardous levels of smoke from the fire has settled over the Bay Area, Central Valley and lower foothills, forcing life indoors.

“It comes down to the health of the players,” Escalon senior linebacker Nash Satnat said. “They (the section) don’t want to put our health at risk for something like this. If we wait it, we’ll get better atmosphere.”

Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa wasn’t surprised by the section’s announcement and believes football is a small sacrifice compared to the real-life loss experienced by those in Butte County. Canepa played college football at Butte College and Chico State in the 1980s.

“I feel bad for the people in Paradise. I went to school in Chico and know a lot of people that way,” Canepa said. “We worry about football games when people have lost homes and lost lives. How big in the realm of things is a bye compared to what people are dealing with? That helps put it all in perspective.”

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