High school sports delay pushes some Illinois athletes out of state to keep playing

BARRINGTON, Ill. (WLS) -- Some Illinois high school athletes have moved out of state to continue playing their sports as the state has moved traditional fall sports like football and hockey to spring to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Gage Perri, 16, moved to Colorado last month in order to continue playing youth hockey. He had been scheduled to start his junior year at Barrington High School, but classes are all remote and hockey has been postponed.

"His goal is to be a college hockey player," his mother Ami Perri said. "Truly, because of the opportunity, we couldn't pass it up."

Perri is one of a number of Illinois high school athletes moving to other states to play. JJ McCarthy, a highly-recruited quarterback who would have been a senior at Nazareth Academy is now playing in Florida. His teammate Domenic Virelli moved to Iowa to have a chance to play this fall, rather than wait until February when Illinois is scheduled to allow football to return. That may be too late for college offers.

"If they were in Illinois right now, no one's playing football at the moment," said Tim Racki, Nazareth football coach. "With the colleges, they want that tape right now."

But moving to another state is a luxury that is not available to everyone. Many of the student athletes in Illinois are hoping for a change in the state's policy.

"It's definitely tough," said Logan Ambroz, senior and football player at Barrington High School.

Racki said Friday nights, the traditional high school football night, are the most difficult as he look at an empty stadium. Still, he understand.

"The last thing you wanna do is with football or any other sport, if you get a spike that closes down the school, that's not good for anybody," he said.

This would have been the third week of Nazareth's high school football season. They were supposed to be on ESPN for their first game.

Students in several suburban districts have held rallies this week, asking for the return of fall sports and in-person learning, and there are more planned for the weekend.

RELATED: Hinsdale Central students say remote learning is a threat to their health

At the same time 30 Illinois counties, including DuPage County where Hinsdale students rallied Thursday for the return of sports, have reached COVID-19 warning levels according to state health officials. And DuPage health officials said there's been an uptick in COVID-related deaths, as well as an increase in the rate of new cases.

Doctors in DuPage County said they're seeing a shift in the way the virus spreads, from primarily young people infected at social gatherings to older patients getting infected within the home, sometimes from younger relatives.
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