CDO coach Dustin Peace played for and coached with Pat Nugent as part of the Dorado program and he now stands with his mentor concerning Nugent’s decision to postpone practice at Cienega until the Bobcats are allowed to have contact drills to prepare for competition.
“I can just say that I’m proud that he’s making that kind of move for our city, not just for Cienega football,” Peace said after his team practiced this morning.
Nugent’s decision was based on the Pima County Health Department’s latest COVID-19 recommendation Wednesday to the superintendents of Southern Arizona public schools that contact drills and competition should not take place until the spread of the disease has achieved minimal levels of community transmission as defined by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and the ADHS (Arizona Department of Health Services).
The ADHS benchmarks for minimal levels of community transmission is 10 or less cases out of 100,000 people. The AIA on Sept. 17 changed its metrics to 75 cases out of 100,000 people to allow full-contact practice and competition.
“When the AIA initially put out the 10 per 100,000, I think some coaches looked up the data, and there was one state in the U.S. that was under 10 and it was Vermont,” Peace said. “It’s obviously unrealistic for us to get there any time soon, but am I surprised about that recommendation? Not at all.
“I don’t think the Pima County Health Department was going to sit here and say, ‘Go ahead and play football.'”
The recent numbers indicate Pima County at about 44 people per 100,000 testing positive for COVID-19.
RELATED: Parents of local football players have started a petition to show local school districts they want football to be played this fall.
Coach Nugent is correct. Either tell us we are playing or cancel the season. It you intend to abide by the 10/100000 ratio the season is over. Just say it. Quit stringing these parents coaches and kids along.
If we got this far, a month and half (into practice), and we weren’t allowed to start the season I’d be extremely frustrated as a coach for our kids, for our programs, for our city that we started something that we didn’t even get driving yet,” Peace said. “We all feel like we’re putting on a show for parents and players and we’re kind of sick of going through the motions, so to speak.
“That’s where Coach Nugent is saying we’re not going to have a season. That’s the level of frustration that we’re at where we’re just going through the motions out here.”
Peace was interviewed after his hour-long practice with his players concluded. In the last two weeks, the Dorados have practiced two hours with helmets. Peace thought of a postponement similar to Nugent but went ahead with the scaled-back workout.
“We’ve all made adjustments,” Peace said of local coaches. “We’ll progress forward day by day with making the next decision we have to have.”
Marana coach Louie Ramirez decided to cancel practice today.
“We will be going tomorrow for light conditioning in just helmets as we normally would,” Ramirez mentioned in a text message. “It’s ridiculous but out of our control. Hurting the kids mentally more than anything else.”
The next step is the decision by the superintendents and school boards to either take heed to the PCHD recommendation or go forward with football using the AIA’s metrics.
Time is of the essence. A schedule starting Oct. 30 involving Southern Arizona football teams from Class 2A to 6A was developed last week by coaches and regional representatives. Some school boards will not meet until Oct. 27, three days before the proposed kickoff to the 2020 season. By then, the schools will have not practiced with helmets and pads making the start of the season — if there is one — more likely not until at least Nov. 13.
“That (PCHD) recommendation is put on our superintendents to make a decision to go with it or against it,” Peace said. “It is such a difficult decision for our superintendents, so I’m not surprised they put it on the superintendents to make a decision.
“I think that’s where all of this has landed. Being a superintendent has to be one of the most difficult jobs — and (being on) a school board — that anybody has in education right now.”
Peace stood on CDO’s football field that is about a mile from the Pusch Ridge Christian Academy’s field. The Lions have a game scheduled tonight against Thatcher.
Pusch Ridge is a private institution that does not have to answer to a county superintendent or school board. Salpointe Catholic is in the same position. The Lancers have also played this season but are on a two-week quarantine after a player tested positive Oct. 4. They resume play next Friday at home against Buena.
“Tonight, you’ve got Friday night games in other parts of our state,” Peace said incredulously. “Right over here (turns around toward the PRCA campus), I can see lights behind me. That’s what hurts inside to these players.”
During the summer, Peace and 18 fellow coaches in the state, most from Southern Arizona, proposed that the football season be rescheduled for the spring to allow for time for COVID-19 to be more under control with a potential vaccine. Neighboring states California and New Mexico have moved their seasons to January and February.
That movement led by Peace was rejected by the AIA.
Now, it appears Southern Arizona players face the likelihood of going without a football season the whole school year, which impacts many seniors locally. The possibility exists that a few local players, especially seniors, may transfer to schools in California or New Mexico to have a season this year.
“I would say this to the superintendents that I’m sorry the AIA has put you in this position,” Peace said. “I commend them for taking the courage of doing this job. They are in a no-win situation right now where they are going to take a chance on safety or take a chance on other parts of the state doing something we’re not going to be a part of.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.