Published 9:31 PM EDT Sep 21, 2020
The Phoenix Union High School District’s alternative fall sports season will begin with practices at the start of October and competition by the end of the month.
In addition, reservation schools in the Northeast Region, which includes the Navajo, Apache and Hopi tribal communities in that part of Arizona, plans to begin sports in January, starting with basketball and wrestling, followed by football in March, and wrapping up with baseball and softball the first week of June.
Both of those plans were approved Monday by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, both given one-year exemption because of COVID-19. Board members praised both PXU and Northeast Region for their efforts to provide sports for high school students during the 2020-21 school year.
AIA board member Zack Munoz presented the PXU plan to the full board in his role as that district’s athletic director. He emphasized that it is contingent on developments with COVID-19. In the past few weeks, the infection rate in zip codes in the district has trended downward.
Munoz said the district doesn’t plan to alter its winter and spring sports seasons with those staying consistent with the AIA.
There are 11 PXU schools, 10 of those that play football. The 10 teams would play a football schedule against themselves with a city championship game played at the end of the season during the week of Dec. 14. The final regular-season games would be played the week of Dec. 7.
Football scrimmages would be the week of Oct. 19, followed by first regular-season games the following week.
“We feel that by October, we’ll have a better understanding of our place and what we want to do,” Munoz said.
Munoz was asked if any of his schools would play a team in another district that is part of the AIA fall timeline, and he said no.
Most of the AIA teams begin varsity competition on Oct. 2 for football. If a team in another district lost an opponent because of COVID cases, that team wouldn’t pick up a PXU team to make up the game to help with state qualifying.
Boys and girls golf competition would being Oct. 5. The first week of competition for badminton, boys and girls swimming, boys and girls cross-country and volleyball would be the week of Oct. 26, along football.
The Phoenix City Championships for sports other than football would be the week of Nov. 15.
Reservations going Big School, Small School divisions
The reservation schools in northeastern Arizona canceled fall sports earlier in the summer because of the pandemic .
But with numbers trending better, athletic directors came together to come up with a schedule that would work for all sports, starting in January. The Navajo, Hopi and Apache tribal governments would have to give the final consent for having these seasons. But the AIA board was impressed by the plan presented by Fort Defiance Window Rock AD Ryan Dodson.
The plan calls for two divisions: Big School and Small School
In the Big School Division are Whiteriver Alchesay, Chinle, Kayenta Monument Valley, Page, Tuba City and Window Rock.
In the Small School Division are Tuba City Greyhills, Keams Canyon Hopi, Many Farms, Pinon, Red Mesa, Red Valley-Cove, Rock Point, Shonto Prep, St. Michaels and Sanders Valley. For football, the Small School Division would comprise of Greyhills, Rock Point, Pinon, Red Mesa, Hopi, Valley and Many Farms.
Dodson said the schools will work with tribal leaders, who will have to give final consent to play the season.
Dodson said if tribal leaders feel the environment still is not safe, this plan would be scrapped or there could be an alternative plan “with the worst-case scenario being we don’t contest sports for the entire academic year.”
“The entire month of January is taking into consideration the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee’s recommendation early on to treat these athletes as if they’re coming off of an injury,” Dodson said. “Our Northeast Region extended our practice times because it looks like a lot of the schools won’t be in the buildings until January. This is the most realistic plan for the Northeast schools.”
Basketball and wrestling would start workouts in early January with first competition at the end of the month. For boys and girls basketball, there would be at least nine regular-season games with a minimum of seven, Dodson said.
The last day of the regular season is proposed for Feb. 24. All teams would qualify for the single-elimination tournaments. The boys and girls would alternate days during the playoffs with the girls final on March 5 and the boys final on March 6.
The postseason would be run by the reservation schools, who would also handle the financials. The AIA would assist with assigning referees for the games, AIA Executive Director David Hines said.
All wrestlers would qualify for a tournament with having at least nine matches to qualify. Dodson said there is a chance wrestling could be moved to the spring if wrestling can be conducted the same time as basketball.
Football practices would start Feb. 22 with first competition on March 12 and wrapping up on April 23.
With the cross-over athletes, they would need 10 days to acclimate to football before playing a game, Hines said.
There would be six football games played. The regular season would determine the champion. There would be no playoff format, Dodson said.
Volleyball would start the same time as football with every team qualifying for the playoffs.
“One of our goals was to eliminate any overnight travel for any of our teams,” Dodson said. “This would be an area where we would work with tribal leadership in the event that there are still nightly curfews.”
The spring cross-country would run from Feb. 22 to April 17. There would be a single-division final meet for the runners.
Baseball and softball would run from April 12 (first day of practice) through the first week of June.
Track and field is running from April 12 to May 29. There are three to four usable track and field venues for all of the schools to share.
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