When the Canyon football team took the field for walkthroughs on Thursday afternoon, the air was hazy. Soon after, messages from parents of players came trickling in.
“You could see the smoke,” said Cowboys coach Joe Maiale. “It was smoky and ash coming over into the school right as we were going into seventh period. Getting texts from parents, maybe we should come home, (they’re) concerned and once you hear that, family is most important. It’s football practice, it’s not even a comparison.”
The Tick Fire was just getting underway at that moment. By 3 p.m. Friday’s classes had been canceled. By Thursday evening, the Tick Fire had burned through 3,950 acres.
As the fire swallowed up brush and trees and threatened homes, Maiale tried to keep tabs on his players, making sure they knew of practice and game cancellations as well as making sure they were safe.
“We email the parents, we message the Hudl app where everyone watches game film,” Maiale said. “It becomes word of mouth, it’s tough to make sure you reach everybody because you don’t know who’s home, but hopefully everyone has their phones and the kids are texting each other and the coaches text and email.”
On Friday at 1:15 p.m. William S. Hart Union High School District officials announced that all Foothill League football games of all levels were to be rescheduled, with the varsity contests slated to take place on Saturday.
“In times like these, high school athletic events pale in comparison to the importance of keeping people safe,” the district said in a statement. “We are sensitive to the disruptions many families are facing as a result of the fire and want to remember them as we consider how to proceed with previously scheduled extra-curricular activities.”
Maiale said that as of Friday afternoon, to the best of his knowledge, none of the Canyon football players had been majorly affected by the Tick Fire.
Despite the disruption to the normal game-week schedule, Maiale said that he has little concern over whether or not his team will be fully prepared to play Golden Valley tonight. The Cowboys had a solid week of practice and since it is Week 9, the preparations are familiar.
The Cowboys will reconvene tonight for a team meal and play at 7 p.m. against Golden Valley at their home stadium, provided the game isn’t rescheduled again.
Maiale is also hoping that the game offers an escape for those dealing with the fire.
“I think it brings the community together,” he said. “It’s normalcy, everyone loves football in this community and its really special to hear Canyon and the parents involved, the kids, families, the alumni, it’s really just a chance to get back to doing what we love.”
“With team meal, we’re going to meet a little earlier and just be together and try to come together as a team before we go play a game.”
In addition to Canyon vs. Golden Valley at 7 p.m. at Canyon, Valencia and Saugus will play at College of the Canyons at 7 p.m. and Hart will play West Ranch at Valencia at 7 p.m. All games will take place tonight.
Admission to Valencia vs. Saugus and Hart vs. West Ranch is free, but donations to the American Red Cross are encouraged.
Trinity Classical Academy will play Southlands Christian tonight at 7 p.m. at Diamond Bar High School.
All JV football games will be played on Monday. Hart is at West Ranch at 3:30 p.m., Valencia is at Saugus at 3:30 p.m. and Golden Valley is at Canyon at 6 p.m.
The times and locations for the freshman football games are yet to be announced.