By Sara Beth Williams–
Players and fans arrived at San Juan High School on Friday evening to find that the annual Citrus Bowl had been canceled less than an hour before kickoff.
Every year, Mesa Verde High School and San Juan High School football teams face off in the Citrus Bowl, an intra-city competition to see which city high school team is best. The game was previously scheduled for kickoff at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9, but due to extreme heat, kickoff was pushed back to 8 p.m., according to an email from San Juan High School Principal David Levis.
Despite acceptable temperatures on Friday evening, the game was still canceled at the last minute due to poor air quality from smoke-filled skies.
“San Juan Community, we are sad to say we have had to cancel the game because of the air quality,” San Juan High School announced on their Facebook Page Friday evening. “Our priority is the safety of our student-athletes.”
Commenters on the post echoed that the health and safety of students was “more important than the game.” At the time of publication, a new date and time for kickoff has not been scheduled. Air quality continues to be a concern due to California’s ongoing wildfires.
Several students and players arrived before 7:30 p.m. to find the lights on the field dark. Some students had traveled from Elk Grove to watch the game. While some waited for rides to return, a handful of kids played catch in the parking lot.
On Friday morning, a post on the high school’s Facebook page stated that in order for the game to proceed as planned, temperatures had to drop below 104 degrees and the Air Quality Index (AQI) needed to be below 151 by 8 p.m. Friday evening.
While the temperatures topped off over 104 degrees between 5 and 6 p.m., by 8 p.m., temperatures dipped below 100 degrees. During the day throughout Citrus Heights, the AQI hovered in the 120 range, but steadily climbed higher as 8 p.m. approached. After 8 p.m. the AQI in Citrus Heights hovered above 150, according to AirNow.gov.
Two hours before kickoff, a post on San Juan’s Facebook page informed families that the game was still scheduled. There was no post on Mesa Verde’s Facebook page or the MSHS Football page before or after the initial time of kickoff.
Mesa Verde Football Head Coach Leonard Casillas said in an interview that he hopes the game is rescheduled for next week, but that the decision is up to the San Juan High School administration.