PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Perhaps it’s finally “game on!”
The move into Phase 4 Restore Illinois Mitigations opens the door for a complete return to high school sports in central Illinois. The 20-county Region 2 moved into Phase 4 Monday which allows all sports to compete again.
That includes the high risk sports of football, basketball and wrestling, who’s seasons have been in jeopardy since the start of the school year due to the pandemic.
“We’ve been lifting on the field, running trying to stay in shape just hoping that we may have a season,” said Washington football senior Colton Wind. “And now that we finally might be able to have one, we are all excited for it.”
High school football in Illinois was moved from the fall to the spring because of the pandemic but many coaches doubted whether a season would even be played then. Schools were allowed limited practice in the fall but have not had full-team practices since October.
“We’ve had doubts since last semester, last year, if we’re going to have a season or not. It’s exciting,” said Morton football senior Kyle Heal. “When you don’t know if you’re going to have a season this year, getting the news is great.”
The Illinois High School Association is expected to announce a new stateside sports schedule Wednesday.
Basketball season was scheduled to start in November but all high school sports were put on pause Nov. 20 when Illinois moved into Tier 3 Mitigations amidst surging COIVD0-19 cases. Wrestling, typically a winter sport, was moved to the late spring to try and salvage the season.
Boys soccer and girls volleyball are fall sports which were shifted to the spring as well. Those teams began practice Monday.
“Its exciting because we all get to be in the gym together and this is the first time since COVID has hit that we all get to practice,” said Limestone volleyball senior Chloe Melton. “So it’s a new thing this year that we all get to look forward to.”
With Monday’s poor weather, may high school teams spent the day in the weight room. But at least players were back with the coaches.
And optimistic about the return of high school sports. Cross country, golf, girls swimming and girls tennis had shortened season in the fall and last spring’s sports season was canceled due to the pandemic.
“It’s been really exciting especially for all the seniors who, I didn’t get to play my last year because it got canceled.” said Peoria Christian soccer senior Aaron Gallup. “So this year is just really big to make memories in the process.”