COUNTY — The Arizona Interscholastic Association released their plan and schedule for the fall but not all schools are ready to commit after readjusting their back to school plans.

The staggered fall sports schedule allows the sports that are low risk for COVID-19 spread to start earlier than sports deemed high risk. Volleyball and soccer are slated to start official practice on Aug. 31 and football is last to start with their first practices starting on Sept. 7.

“I’m glad that they continued to give teams a chance at a season as opposed to cancelling it all together,” Douglas High School football coach Hunter Long said in an emailed statement to the Herald/Review. “Unfortunately, it will be a shortened season but some football will always be better than no football and we’re just anxious to get back to work.

“Health and safety of our kids and staff will always take precedence over all and will still be our priority once we are allowed to begin on field activities and prepare for the upcoming season.”

Just when sports fans thought they had some clarity, a curve ball was thrown in their direction.

The Arizona Department of Health Services released benchmarks for the return to in-person learning, and based on those benchmarks the county health department isn’t recommending any school return to campus.

Now, what does this mean for athletics? Well, some schools are changing their plans for returning to school to a completely virtual experience for the first few weeks which is having a ripple effect on athletic programs.

Sierra Vista Unified School District held a special board meeting on Tuesday to delay the start of in-person instruction to Sept. 14. SVUSD spokesperson Jacob Martinez said the delay will have an effect on when Buena High School athletics can resume. Tentative dates were not released by presstime of this edition.

The district’s delay will be beneficial for the Buena boys golf team as they do not have a coach, after previous coach Ryan Sedore stepped down. Golf practice is supposed to begin on Monday, according to the AIA’s schedule, and competitions beginning the week of Aug. 24.

Douglas athletics is scheduled to resume on Sept. 1 which will be after golf competitions begin. If the Bulldogs have to not play in a match they will not be penalized by the AIA.

“If any contests don’t happen directly due to the pandemic, then it is not considered a forfeit,” said AIA Sports Information Coordinator Seth Polansky in an email statement to the Herald/Review. “It will simply be a no contest. And there are no fines or fees attached due to a no contest related to this.”

Although the date was agreed upon by a number of DHS administrators and the board, superintendent Ana Samaniego isn’t certain a full athletics program will return.

“At this point DUSD has made a decision to wait and take a further look at things during the Sept. 1 board meeting,” she said. “We’ve delayed all sports until now. Mr. (Angel) Ortega and other athletic directors from the southern region met last week with AIA officials and agreed to push back all sports for this year until September and maybe October for this region. I’m hoping we can do something that is safe for our students but a full fledged athletics program, I really doubt that’s going to happen.”

Even if teams are able to start, there are concerns that they may not finish the season.

“I feel happy if we can do it,” Valley Union football coach Brandon Gilbreth said of the delayed start.“My concern is that we’re going to start our season and then have to stop.”

He said he has no idea as to how many games Valley Union will play this season. His team continues to condition four days a week without any equipment.hoping they will be given the okay to move forward to the next phase of conditioning.

In a Facebook post on Tombstone Unified School District Facebook page announced they are switching to distance remote learning but athletics would resume in accordance with the AIA staggered schedule. The Yellow Jacket football team is having summer workouts but are the only team doing so.

Tombstone volleyball coach Dan Romero said he doesn’t know when his team would be allowed back in the gym but typically the team starts having open gyms in June. Romero added his players are eager to get in the gym and probably worrying if they will actually have a season.

“It’s baffling,” Romero said. “I told them to try and stay in shape whether that’s running or sand volleyball at one of the parks.”

He added he is glad they at least tried to have a season even though it’s not going to be as long as it always had been.

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