Central Valley High School grad Estevan Barragan and his Fresno State football teammates received positive news this past week.
The Mountain West (MW) Conference Board of Directors met on Sept. 24 and approved plans to start the 2020 season next month.
Fall sports had been postponed on Aug. 10 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Any return to competition is subject to state, county and local approvals.
“I’m really excited to put pads on and have the chance to get back on the field,” said Barragan, a 5-foot-8 173-pound redshirt freshman running back. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to play the game I love (at the Division-I level). It’s definitely a dream. I don’t take it for granted.”
“This is a great opportunity to get our student-athletes back on the field of competition in a cautious and regulated fashion,” MW Commissioner Craig Thompson stated. “We appreciate the efforts our Board, Directors of Athletics, Health and Safety Advisory Committee and Conference staff have put into developing the necessary parameters for our students-athletes to return to competition. The rapid testing element was critical for us to provide an effective solution for our athletes, coaches, officials and event staff.”
The Mountain West has partnered with Quest Diagnostics to implement testing protocols across all member institutions.
The Mountain West will require all football student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals that are on the field to undergo testing three times per week.
Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each game. Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through point of contact (POC) testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test.
“There are so many rules we have to follow,” Barragan said. “It’s pretty crazy. It’s up to the players and coaches to do everything right so nobody gets COVID. I’m trying my best to not put myself and team in danger. We have a good system put in place for us to be safe. Luckily, nobody’s tested positive. We’re trying to keep it that way.”
Barragan attended team and position group meetings via Zoom Monday night.
He met with assistant coach Lee Marks and six other running backs at 9 p.m.
“We’re not allowed to be on campus for in-person meetings,” he said.
Barragan attended practices on campus last Sunday, Saturday and Friday.
“I enjoyed every moment,” he said. “We haven’t had a practice in so long.”
The 2020 season is scheduled to kick off on Oct. 24.
“I don’t know who we’re playing yet,” he said. “It hasn’t been released.”
The Bulldogs are supposed to play an eight-game schedule.
The Mountain West Championship Game is scheduled for Dec. 19.
“If we have a full season, that would be great,” Barragan said.
Fresno State will have no spectators at its home games.
“They’re not allowing fans for the safety of everybody,” Barragan said.
Barragan made history last fall when he became the first student-athlete from Central Valley High School to make an NCAA Division-I football roster.
He helped prepare Fresno State’s starting defense for games as a scout-team running back.
Barragan suited up for all of the Bulldogs’ home contests in 2019.
He stood on the sidelines but didn’t log any playing time.
Fresno State compiled a 4-8 overall record and tied for last in the Mountain West standings (2-6).
“I got people in front of me that are scholarship players,” Barragan said. “You only get a limited amount of opportunities when you’re a walk-on and redshirt freshman. My goal is to work my way up the depth chart and be on the travel team.”
“I just have to control what I can control,” he said. “I have to perform my best every day. I can’t disappoint. I have to prove myself. I need to earn the trust of all of the coaches.”
Fresno State has a total of seven running backs on its roster.
Ronnie Rivers is the starter. He earned second-team all-Mountain West Conference honors as a junior.
Rivers rushed for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns, both team-highs, on 177 carries.
He also caught 43 passes for 352 yards and three TDs.
“I got to learn as much as I can from Ronnie,” Barragan said. “He’s been a starter for four years.”
Barragan graduated from Central Valley High School in 2018.
He was a standout at the varsity level for three seasons.
Barragan was named the Western Athletic Conference’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player his senior year.
He rushed for 1,111 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He hauled in 31 passes for 503 yards and two TDS.
Barragan earned second-team all-league honors on defense.
He had 110 tackles, one interception, two pass deflections and one forced fumble at safety.
Barragan was a first-team all-league defensive selection his junior and sophomore years.
Barragan’s teams at Central Valley also experienced success.
The Hawks amassed a 21-11 overall record, won one conference title and qualified for the playoffs twice from 2015-17.
“If you want to play at this (the NCAA Division-I) level, you have to put the work in,” Barragan said. “Not a lot of people are willing to do that. It’s a grind.”