Football: Many NCS teams forced to cancel, reschedule scrimmages Misinterpretation of CIF rule leaves numerous schools a practice day short of required number to scrimmage

Pittsburg’s Willie Harts III (3) runs in for a touchdown to extend his teams’ lead in the second quarter of their 2017 CIF State Football Championship Division 1-A Bowl Game at Sacramento State University in Sacramento, Calif. on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. (Randy Vazquez/Bay Area News Group)

High school football coaches were left scrambling Wednesday — cancelling or rescheduling this weekend’s scrimmages — after receiving word that the North Coast Section would be enforcing a California Interscholastic Federation bylaw that requires teams to practice 10 days before holding a scrimmage against another school.

Pittsburg’s Jamboree on Friday night, which was to include De La Salle, Whitney and Jesuit-Carmichael, was canceled because Pittsburg would have had only nine practice days.

De La Salle, which will hold its 10th day of practice Thursday, has instead moved the scrimmage to its campus, with Whitney and Jesuit coming along.

“We’re playing at De La Salle on Friday at 7,” DLS coach Justin Alumbaugh said. “We’re going to try to find a fourth team. There are scrimmages that got dropped all over the place. We’re hopeful to find a team that needs a scrimmage. If not, it will be us three.”

In an email Tuesday afternoon from NCS commissioner Gil Lemmon to athletic directors, Lemmon wrote, “It has once again come to the attention of the Section Office that some NCS member schools may be planning a football scrimmage on their 10th day of practice, a violation of CIF 2002 and Sports & General Rulings Handbook Bylaw 19.104H. Such action is not allowed.

“The CIF rule concerning scrimmages has not changed in over 35 years. No individual student or school shall participate in an interscholastic scrimmage before the 10th day of practice for that particular school. This means that when a school practices 10 days (double-practices in a day = one practice day) the school is allowed to participate in a scrimmage on the 11th day.”

Pittsburg coach Victor Galli, who is in his 17th season, called it a misinterpretation of the rule.

“All the coaches I’ve talked to, and I’ve talked to a lot of them, nobody is breaking a rule on purpose,” Galli said. “It was just our understanding that nine practices and the scrimmage is your 10th practice. It’s not a game. It’s a scrimmage.”

Unlike the neighboring Central Coast Section, which holds its first official day of practice on a Friday, NCS teams start practicing on a Monday — this year July 30.

To reach 10 practices before a Friday scrimmage, NCS teams had to practice six days the first week (Monday through Saturday) and four this week (Monday through Thursday). No practices are allowed on Sunday.

In light of Lemmon’s email, some teams have or are considering moving their scrimmage to Saturday.

Pittsburg, which opens the season at home Aug. 17 against Clayton Valley Charter, has chosen not to scrimmage Saturday.

“We have a big game to prepare for,” Galli said. “Most teams are opting not to. Some people are doing it. Some people aren’t.”

Acalanes coach Floyd Burnsed also misinterpreted the rule and said he is trying scrimmage Saturday.

“A lot of coaches thought two practices (in one day) would be OK.” Burnsed said. “It’s a huge mess. Wish he would have sent the e-mail earlier, prior to the season starting.”

For Pittsburg, it seemed like déjà vu.

Last year, the school had one game canceled because of heat and another canceled because of smoke from wildfires.

“It’s kind of unbelievable,” Galli said. “I thought last year was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced. I was like, ‘I’ll never have something like that again, and now this thing starts off bizarre. It’s disappointing, but at the same time, God-willing, it’s going to be a long season for us. We’ll go from there.”