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Christopher Tomlinson/Sentinel file photo

Fruita Monument and high school football teams throughout Colorado will have to wait until February to get back on the field. A proposal to allow teams to play this fall was voted down late Tuesday night by the Colorado High School Activities Association board of directors.

The glimmer of hope for a return of high school football this fall was extinguished late Tuesday night.

“I was really trying not to get my hopes up too much,” Fruita Monument football coach Cameron Ross said. “I knew it was a big if, but it was disappointing, for sure.”

Only hours after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday his office would work with the Colorado High School Activities Association to allow teams to return to the gridiron this fall, the CHSAA board of directors unanimously voted to keep the schedule as is.

“We understand that our school communities would like to return to all levels of normalcy,” Troy Baker, the president of the board and athletic director at Buena Vista High School, said in a release Wednesday morning.

“We listened to all parties and the voices of our membership resonated strongly to support the plan as approved in August. The plan aligns with the CHSAA mission. All students have an opportunity to play a season during the 2020-21 school year.”

It’s the latest blow to high school athletes, who had state championships and entire seasons canceled last spring. They were allowed to start working out over the summer, only to be told just before practice would have started that football, volleyball and boys soccer seasons were on hold until February.

When CHSAA announced the new four-season calendar in August, there was immediate outcry. One online petition at change.org had more than 13,800 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon calling for the reinstatement of fall football.

The CHSAA board of directors cited four reasons that factored into its decision:

n The safety, physical and emotional well-being of Colorado student’s participants must be at the forefront of every decision.

n Diverse educational return-to-learn models exist throughout the state, and they must not be undermined.

n Students have already integrated into non-traditional participation opportunities in the rural and metro areas.

n There are Title IX and gender representation issues around any reconsideration of the approved calendar.

Allowing football to return to fall would likely have had boys soccer, gymnastics and volleyball communities demanding the same.

Polis issued a statement after CHSAA’s announcement, which read: “I have said from the beginning that it will take all of us — people at home, local communities, governments, businesses, and organizations working together to crush the spread of this virus. Our administration was looking forward to allowing more student-athletes to begin their season this Fall, but if the CHSAA board unanimously agrees that they should delay their season until the Spring in an effort to ensure that they are better prepared to protect the safety of student-athletes, then our administration fully respects that decision. The important thing is that every CHSAA sanctioned athletic team sport will occur this school year giving kids the opportunity to learn important skills by participating in team sports.”

Ross reminded his players this latest setback isn’t a cancellation.

“One thing we reminded our guys this morning is, we still have the spring season. There’s still something to work toward,” he said. “You’ve gotta focus on what you can control. You can’t control those decisions, all we can control is the attitude we take into each day and try to get better. That’s really the focus we’ve been having and it’s been good for our kids to think about it that way.”

Richard Hargrove, the superintendent of Springfield Schools, said the ever-changing landscape of education had to be considered.

“We are focused on getting school started and running smoothly, as well as handling all the issues of running a school district and trying to have that be as normal as possible. We do not want to travel. The biggest thing for me in the end is that we have continued to move the goalposts, and every time we turned around, we had something else we had to adjust to.

“The discussion (Tuesday) night amplified that there was another potential goalpost movement. We have already developed a calendar that addresses the concerns of health officials, and gives all students a season and a chance to participate. We need to move forward with that plan.”

Athletes are getting into a routine and are moving forward now that they’re back in the classroom, Ross said. This was just one more gut-punch.

“The issue with the whole thing, after three weeks of being in school, we had kind of gotten used to the idea of we’re going to play in the spring,” Ross said, “and this idea popped up and it was a great possibility. It’s hard to get everybody’s hopes up and dash them like that.”