Rowland High School Football Set to Kickoff Later This Month

Rowland High School’s football program will join others in the region for a five-game season


Rowland High School practices in preparation for the start of the season in March. Photo credit: Joseph Hartnett

John A. Rowland High School’s football program is among others in the region that have begun practicing in preparation for their return to the gridiron, with Rowland High School set to face Diamond Bar on March 20. The Rowland High School Raiders held their first practice on March 1 once the program received clearance from the district to resume full team activities on the field after implementing protocols.

The team had previously practiced in small pods of eight student-athletes in November, preparing a smoother transition for the 70 players now participating, with only freshman-sophomore and varsity teams set to compete this season.

“There were a lot of hoops we had to jump through to make sure that went down,” coach Ryan Jacobson said.

Rowland High School athletics director, Mike Ortalli expressed confidence about the season and about parents being satisfied with the protocols that have been implemented to maintain the safety of the student-athletes participating.

“We have mask-wearing 100% of the time on campus, we are social distancing, we are temperature checking when [student-athletes] come in, we are sanitizing hands,” Ortalli said. “We are sanitizing the ball, we are not using any whistles, everything is electronic so we are doing a really good job of keeping all of our kids safe on campus.”

With the first game of the season set to take place later this month, the entire training program will be fast-tracked to be ready against Diamond Bar High School. The transition to pads, which would usually take multiple weeks, will now be done in one.

Although Rowland High School plans to test its student-athletes 24 hours before games, regular testing protocols will be subject to change, with Ortalli deferring to what district policy will ultimately mandate.

“I believe our district is going to take the policy to test anyways once a week, but as of now that is our policy,” Ortalli said.

If no decision is made by the district and testing is no longer required, the team still plans to test Mondays in the afternoon and have the results on Tuesdays, leaving ample time to prepare for positive or inconclusive results before Friday.

With the schedule finalized, a shorter than usual season awaits the Raiders. The full schedule of five-games for Rowland will consist of a two-game preseason, starting with an away game at Diamond Bar and a home opener against Baldwin Park. That will be followed by three league games against Pomona at home, then at Chino and finally against Covina at home to close out the season. Depending on where Rowland finishes in league standings, games may be added for a possible playoff tournament.

Rowland High School’s freshman-sophomore team schedule will deviate slightly from the varsity schedule. Instead of playing Pomona, which lacks a freshman-sophomore team. They will face Walnut on April 2, before the varsity team plays against Pomona.

In the event that a school on Rowland’s schedule is unable to play, Ortalli explained all options remained on the table for the program to move forward.

“I think if our opponent had a positive test and we were all tested negative, we would look to see if there was another team that had a positive test and maybe ask their opponent if they would like to play,” Ortalli said. “Other than that, we would just simply try to take a bye week that week and just prepare. If it’s a league game, we would maybe try to reschedule it at the end of the league year.”

As for games allowing family and fans in attendance, Jacobson commented that a decision on that is still a work in progress ultimately linked to COVID-19 case numbers in the region.

“They installed cameras in the gym and on the football field so we can stream the games if necessary, but they are talking about fans,” Jacobson said.

Logistics of establishing sanitation protocols for public concessions and bathrooms are challenges that would still need to be addressed if family or fans are eventually allowed to attend. As of now, viewing of practices by the public will be prohibited and bystanders who attempt to catch a glimpse of the action in person will be told to leave.

Jacobson affirmed that in the event of an outbreak with two or more players testing positive, the program is prepared to end the season immediately.

Still, there remains hope for a season without issues that would prevent Rowland High School student-athletes from showcasing their talents on the field. Of the senior players Jacobson hopes to see have an opportunity to shine this season, Isaiah Propernick carries the potential to make an impact.

“We’re looking forward to him running the football,” Jacobson said. “That kid has worked his butt off all year long in just the hopes that there’s a season.”

With preparations underway, the student-athletes, coaches and staff are excited and hopeful for a healthy season kicking off March 19.