Sunnyside Unified School District superintendent Steve Holmes and the five governing board members heard multiple speeches tonight from administrators, coaches and parents voicing their opinion that contact sports, especially football, should be approved for competition this fall and winter.
What really hit home were the comments from the athletes regarding their desire to compete in their senior seasons with being safety conscious at the same time, knowing that caution, or lack thereof, can make or break their season.
Their minds have teetered for the last two months with optimism when schedules were created to despair when hearing the Pima County Health Department recommend the strictest transmission-rate metrics to prevent contact sports from taking place.
“Football doesn’t only teach us about life situations,” Desert View senior linebacker Anton Jamero said to Holmes and the governing board. “It also gives those kids who don’t have a father figure in their life coaches that have the ability to act as a father for those players.
“Our head coach (former Arizona football player Robert Bonillas) says he will treat us like his own kids. All I want is to experience how the seniors felt when they played in their last year. Hopefully I changed your mind.”
Sunnyside senior receiver Anthony Galvez said of Desert View senior running back Jacob Ramirez, a good friend of his in the room tonight who did not play last season because of a knee injury:
“Some of my friends at Sunnyside, as well as Desert View, have a lot at stake this season like one who just talked, Jacob Ramirez, he’s one of my closest friends and he has not been able to play football since his sophomore year. … Don’t take away the time we have left as seniors by taking away football.”
Good friends and neighborhood rivals @A_Galvez2021 of @SSBDFootball and @Jacob_thebull of Desert View talk about finally getting the approval by the Sunnyside School Board to move forward with football. pic.twitter.com/P9Uq4WkWBK
Holmes responded by mentioning he is proud of how Galvez, Ramirez, Jamero, other players, and all the coaches and parents made their presentations because that reflects well on the district.
“I don’t think our governing board or me as an administrator in all my years have seen this much passion coming out with a great deal of respect from every single person who walked up here. The level of articulation, respect, being well-spoken … can not be lost upon us with an issue that can be very contentious,” Holmes said.
“That speaks loudly of our student-athletes and the culture that our coaches have created with in this school district. … This is what Sunnyside is all about. … I have never seen that type of response (from speakers at a meeting) being rejected by any governing board. I’ve seen contentious fights back and forth, which creates some unwanted tension but this is a good tension when you have this level of real thoughtfulness and pleading of their case to the governing board.”
The governing board ultimately voted to move forward with football by a 4-1 vote, to the applause of the approximately 150 in the crowd that flowed outside the meeting room to the lobby area and outside the front doors of the district building.
The one nay vote was from Consuelo Hernandez, who said she is concerned about players becoming infected by COVID-19 and transmitting the disease to family members at home. Roberto Jaramillo, Eva Carrillo Gong, Beki Quintero and Buck Crouch each voted with a “yes.” Most said they had similar concerns as Hernandez but approved of the mitigations in place to maintain safety.
.@SSBDFootball coach Glenn Posey talks about finally able to put a gameplan to use when the Blue Devils host Flowing Wells on Nov. 6 following tonight’s approval for a football season by the Sunnyside School District. pic.twitter.com/wVsk0wth27
The long wait because of COVID-19 concerns for more than two months to finally have contact drills and competition came to an end with the vote. Sunnyside and Desert View are cleared to have contact with pads tomorrow for the first time this fall.
The vote also allows winter contact sports such as wrestling and basketball to move forward pending approval by the AIA, which has yet to decide when winter sports will begin.
The board voted for the contact sports athletes to remain in remote learning until their seasons are over. All parents must sign a waiver to acknowledge the risk involved with their children playing a contact sport amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The parents who spoke to the governing board made it clear the risk is worth the reward of their sons able to play football as seniors.
Theresa Taylor, Galvez’s mom who wore medical scrubs, talked about the potential fallout for the district if the board voted to reject football.
“If you don’t allow this season to go on, I’m going to guarantee (the players) are going to leave and there is no guarantee they are going to come back next season,” Taylor said. “Any decision you make here tonight it can really have a lasting effect on our community for the years to come.”
The AIA has announced it will work with parents this season who want their sons to transfer immediately to another high school if a school district cancels football and the players have yet to compete.
The Sunnyside School District was the last in Southern Arizona to approve a football season. From Oct. 16 — when the Sahuarita School District started the wave allowing Walden Grove and Sahuarita to play — through tonight, all local schools will play football with the exception of Baboquivari.
The Baboquivari School District in Sells canceled football at the Class 1A school almost three months ago because of high COVID-19 rates on the reservation.
Desert View coach and athletic director Robert Bonillas, a member of @ArizonaFBall‘s 12-1 team in 1998, comments on being ready to go into contact drills starting tomorrow and also to be a leader for his players to follow COVID-19 mitigations so they can play a season. pic.twitter.com/DInzD7ZI0u
Sunnyside and Desert View are moving forward with the plan to kick off their seasons Nov. 6. The Jaguars are supposed to host CDO and Sunnyside is slated to play Flowing Wells at home that night.
Four spectators per player can attend home games. Visiting teams are allotted only two spectators per player. Social distancing and mask wearing will be strongly enforced, according to district officials.
“I think these kids look up to us as coaches so we can protect them and provide that safe environment with the help of everybody,” said Bonillas, who is also Desert View’s athletic director. “We’ll all stay focused. … If it does not work, we’ll go back to Square One and try it again.
“If we can’t do it, we can’t, but if there is an opportunity like we were granted tonight, both schools will make the best of it.”
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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.