High school football to proceed with practice starting Sept. 7

File Photo By Stan Bonifacio: Thatcher’s Bretton Dodge keeps his balance just before being tackled in last year’s game against Safford.

Games for Gila Valley to start in October, all fall sports to proceed as currently scheduled

By Seth Polansky/AIA Sports Information Coordinator

PHOENIX – The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) Executive Board met Wednesday to review and discuss the AIA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee’s recommendations regarding the return to sports and activity.

During the meeting, the board voted to go ahead and start the fall sports season on a staggered schedule, with football practice beginning Sept. 7 and games starring Sept. 30 – Oct. 3. Safford will open its season and the John O’Mera era on Oct. 2 at Willcox against former head coach Eric Hjalmarson, who traded in his blue for red after leading Safford to a regional title last year.

The Executive Board, comprised of representatives from the member schools, reviewed the latest recommendations from SMAC before reaching their decision. With this data and the state’s recorded number of COVID-19 cases declining over the past two weeks, the Board felt competitive sports and activities at the member schools can be successful within recommended guidelines. Click here to see the fall sports calendar.

Schools are reminded to follow the recommended guidelines for the return to sport and activity, which has been re-released to the public, as well as the latest sport modifications.

“I would like to say on behalf of the staff and the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, especially for the sport of football, we would not have been able to make this decision until this time right now based on the metrics,” said Executive Director David Hines. “So the metrics have gotten to a place that we can start football practice. That we can start the heat acclimatization (guidelines). That we can get kids in a helmet and shoulder pads and begin doing work.”

The sport of golf has begun competition. Cross country, swimming & diving, badminton, fall soccer and volleyball have started practice and tryouts. Schools playing football will have the option of beginning practice on Labor Day, which is Sept. 7 with any date after that permissible.

Qualifications to advance to the postseason in each fall sport have been modified. Those qualifications are currently being reviewed and will appear on the tournament pages on AZPreps365.com when ready, along with season dates and team schedules.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan sophomore Kiley McGrath (3) drops in a hit over the outstretched hands of a San Simon defender last season. Volleyball will move forward as scheduled.

“To say we are happy to be where we are now is an understatement,” Hines added. “The Board members really took their time to make sure that this could be done safely. We think that it definitely can. With the help of everyone at our member schools doing their part, we can absolutely make this a memorable season.”

The allowance of fans into contests will be a local decision. Locales across the state will be in different timelines of their phase-in plans. School administrators will always have the most recent information to use regarding their situations.

In a previous Executive Board decision, the winter sports season will begin one week later to accommodate the fall season being extended. At this time, the championships in winter sports are scheduled to conclude as planned.

To view the AIA’s guidance and modifications regarding the fall sports season, click here.

Revised current football schedules: These will be updated as possible

Safford – 3A South

Oct. 2 at Willcox, Oct. 9 versus Round Valley, Oct. 16  at San Tan Foothills, Oct. 23 versus Pusch Ridge, Oct. 30 at Coolidge, Nov. 6 at Florence, Nov. 13 versus Thatcher

Thatcher – 3A South

Oct. 2 at Pima, Oct. 9 versus Snowflake, Oct. 9 versus Empire, Oct. 16 at Pusch Ridge, Oct. 23 versus American Leadership Academy-Gilbert, Oct. 30 versus Florence, Nov. 6 versus San Tan Foothills, Nov. 13 at Safford

Pima – 2A San Pedro

Oct. 2 versus Thatcher, Oct. 9 at St. Johns, Oct. 16 versus Benson, Oct. 23 at Willcox, Oct. 30 at Tombstone, Nov. 6 versus Bisbee, Nov. 13 at Morenci

Morenci – 2A San Pedro

Oct. 2 versus North Pointe Prep, Oct. 9 at San Tan Charter, Oct. 16 at Bisbee, Oct. 23 versus Tombstone, Oct. 30 versus Benson, Nov. 6 at Willcox, Nov. 13 versus Pima

Fort Thomas – 1A South

Oct. 2 at Cicero Prep, Oct. 9 versus Tempe Prep, Oct. 16 at San Manuel, Oct. 23 versus Duncan, Oct. 30 versus Valley Union, Nov. 6 at St. David

Duncan – 1A South

Oct. 2 at Tempe Prep, Oct. 9 versus San Manuel, Oct. 16 at St. David, Oct. 23 at Fort Thomas, Oct. 30 versus Lincoln Prep, Nov. 6 versus Valley Union

Jon Johnson contributed to this report

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