High school football teams audible to try and keep COVID out of the huddle

PHOENIX — High school football teams are working to keep COVID-19 out of the huddle, and calling audibles when it gets into the locker rooms.

This week, at least four high school football teams across the state have had to cancel or postpone their games.

Northwest Christian in Phoenix, Salpointe Catholic in Tucson, Youngker in Buckeye, and Cactus Shadows in Cave Creek have all had to make adjustments due to potential positive cases or exposure amongst players.

“There’s never been a season like this,” said Derek Fahleson, Tolleson Union’s Director of Athletics and Safety and Security. “We postponed our games for several weeks, including our entire season.”

Tolleson schools are still hoping to have a six-game season, instead of the usual ten matchups.

“We are shooting for an October 23 start date with games,” said Fahleson.

Other schools, like powerhouse Chaparral, have watched their seasons dwindle after having to bail on games due to a player testing positive.

“It is challenging. It is concerning,” said Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) Executive Director David Hines.

Any player contracting the virus is cause for concern. So far though, there have not been any large outbreaks in the state when it comes to high school athletics.

“What’s the biggest outbreak [so far] on an actual team?” asked ABC15’s Zach Crenshaw.

“One positive test,” said Hines. “Most of the time we find these cases are not coming through the athletic team or program. They’re coming from outside the program.”

Fortunately, none of the football programs are penalized in the standings for having to cancel games.

“We use a rating system that does not require that all schools play the same number of games,” said Hines.

The lack of a penalty is important because unlike the NFL, high schools do not have access to rapid, daily testing.

“It is an honor system,” said Fahleson.

Schools largely rely on students to self-report symptoms and any contact they have with potentially positive individuals.

“We can’t have anybody try and hide a potential positivity or contact,” said Hines. “It is better to sit out a few days and protect your teammates and their families then it is to hide something and see if you can get by without saying anything.”


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