For the Ontario High School Boys Soccer team, the first practice of their truncated season started in the Ontario High School parking lot on Tuesday. According to coach Jaime Gonzalez, it was very challenging to do so.

This afternoon will be a different scenario: Practice will take place on the practice fields at Alameda Elementary. This is because the boys and girls soccer team spent a couple of hours or so on Tuesday afternoon clearing snow off the field, according to Gonzalez.

The boys’ first game is less than a week away. The team will play Baker at the Alameda fields starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, followed by a game against Four Rivers Community School at the Four Rivers field.

Prior to Gov. Kate Brown’s announcement on Tuesday that Malheur County would be moving into a “moderate risk” level, it was unknown how parents might attend games due to limits on crowd numbers for outdoor and indoor activities. It is unknown how Brown’s decision will impact spectators for high school sports. However, Javier Gonzales, the girls soccer coach, said that he had talked to Athletic Director Josh Mink about it.

“To start off, we won’t have the luxury of fans on the field,” Javier said. “But I believe they will be able to line up outside on the sidewalk and watch through the fence.”

Typically soccer has a summer preseason, starting in June or July with the actual season getting underway in late August or early September and going through October or November, depending on how league play goes.

Each season typically averages 40 to 50 students trying out for the boys’ varsity and junior varsity teams, but this year only 25 students signed up. For the girls’ soccer team, coached by Javier Gonzalez, 15 players have signed up. Their season also begins Tuesday, when they travel to Baker City to play Baker/Powder Valley in a league game.

The reason there were much fewer players than usual, according to the coaches, is the whole situation surrounding COVID-19. As sports had been pushed off far from their regular season, many players are in spring clubs, which is a common activity for those players during high school’s off season, according to Javier.

However, for those girls who are committing to the shortened season mandatory practice started Monday, and as the boys’ did, they started out practicing on the parking lot.

Before or after practice this afternoon, the teams are expected to keep clearing away the snow on the varsity field, which they are aiming to stay off of through the week to let it dry out, Javier said.

“The boys and girls are just so happy we go the field open,” he said. “We did a quick 5 or 10-minute pickup game.”

Tools used to clear the field included shovels, a snowblower a snow plow and a 4-wheeler — all of which was done while wearing masks.

“We definitely got a workout, had fun and made the best of it,” Javier said, adding that they also made snowballs, “big ones.”

Javier said it will be interesting to see how the season actually pans out, with the girls traveling to Baker on Tuesday.

“The weather is cold, and it can turn in five minutes,” he said. “But it is what it is, and we’re pretty much ready to go.”

Javier said coaches remain hopeful that with a quick turnaround from a short season to summer, they’ll be able to gear up as usual to start practicing for an actual fall season for the 2021-22 school year.

Cross-country and football gearing up, too.

Next week will be the first competition for Ontario boys and girls cross-country at the Vale Greater Oregon League Invite on March 3.

For that meet, Ontario, Vale, Nyssa, La Grande, Burns and Baker/Powder Valley.

The Tiger football team is also gearing up for its first game of the season, which will include five games overall with the first against Nyssa on March 5 at home.

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