thomas

Buena High School head football coach Joe Thomas reflects on the past season.

SIERRA VISTA — Buena High School’s football team’s mission was to make it through the season while keeping everyone healthy. The Colts accomplished that mission, but weren’t able to compile a full seasons of games to return to the postseason.

“In my opinion I think had we gotten a fifth game and with our strength of schedule we would have been the number eight team and played in the playoffs,” Buena head coach Joe Thomas said.

Buena could have played a fifth game if the team was given approval to travel to Mingus High School in the third week of the season or if it wasn’t pulled off the field at Ironwood Ridge High School in early November.

“I regret not pushing more to play that Mingus game,” Thomas said. “I have clarification now but I wish I had asked more questions then.”

Instead of ending in the postseason, Buena concluded their season with an intrasquad game on Nov. 27 to recognize their seniors after Mountain View Marana had to cancel.

“We started the season so we wanted to finish it,” Thomas said. “For the kids and parents to share that moment that was good.”

His efforts to give his 11 seniors one last game on their home field wasn’t lost on his players.

“I’m glad he didn’t give up on us,” senior Isaac Benoit said of his coach. “Family and friends got to see us so I can’t ask for more. We were blessed to have a season.”

The Colts played four games, one shy of the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s minimum to qualify for the state tournament. When Superintendent Eric Holmes gave the football team and the other fall sports the green light to start practice and compete, Thomas and the Buena administrators had a choice to make.

“We had to decide to go with the AIA or wait for the southern Arizona teams,” Thomas said. “We wanted to start Oct. 2 because we had the green light, too.”

Because of the late approval to begin athletics, schedules were already complete for most of the schools, which left Buena with just two scheduled games: Salpointe and Casa Grande.

Even if it wasn’t a full season, senior Dominic Avant is grateful for the opportunity he and his teammates had.

“I’m glad we had our senior season,” he said. “It gave us one last chance to play with our teammates and see how Buena will be for the next couple of years.”

Thomas said they weren’t focused on scheduling games because they didn’t know when they were going to be allowed to practice. He said that looking back on the situation, he would have pushed to have more games scheduled and just rescheduled games if the team wasn’t ready.

“We tried to get teams to play but they didn’t want to travel out of their county,” Thomas said. “When the AIA scrapped the original schedules they made it harder to schedule games.”

When Thomas called Phoenix teams to play, he was told they weren’t allowed to travel out of the county and they were only playing region opponents. Buena didn’t play against any of their region opponents.

Thomas knows his team was fortunate to pick up their first two games of the season at Combs High School and Paradise Valley after losing opponents due to COVID-19. Buena won those two games on the road. The Colts lost their last two games of the season to Salpointe and Casa Grande. Both teams are in the semifinals of the playoffs.

“Some things you just got to go with it,” Thomas said. “Sometimes you have to take a chance, which is what we did.”

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