Marana High School’s football team is in its fourth week of voluntary workouts with the hope pads can be worn for practice starting next Monday.
Their workout this morning, starting at 6 a.m. on the grass fields just east of the stadium, consisted of more than 60 players, the coaching staff and training staff. Their temperature was checked before the workout and they wore masks, especially if closer than six feet within each other.
“The language we’re using is voluntary low-impact non-contact authorized workouts,” Marana third-year coach Louie Ramirez said. “We plan to start using pads on the 14th (Monday) unless anything changes from here to then because things can change on a daily basis.
“Hopefully, we can kick off (the season) Oct. 23. That’s a tentative plan. Things can change.”
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) September 7, 2020
The Oct. 23 opening date is dependent on whether Marana can return to in-person instruction Oct. 19. The Pima County school district superintendents announced in a statement last month that competition will not take place until students are allowed back in the classrooms based on COVID-19 data from the Pima County Health Department.
Ramirez and other head coaches in Southern Arizona have commented that a return to school for students could happen Oct. 19 if the COVID-19 cases in Pima County continue to decline.
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) September 7, 2020
The AIA executive board announced last week that it is going forward with sports, including football, to take place in the fall after consulting with the Sport Medical Advisory Committee. Phoenix-area schools and private schools such as Salpointe and Pusch Ridge locally will start their season Oct. 2.
Ramirez said the hope is for Marana to schedule four to five games because four games are necessary to qualify for the state playoffs. The schedule can not be set until schools know what other schools are going forward with football.
Ramirez commented on the ZOOM video meeting Southern Arizona coaches had last week about the possibility of area teams only playing each other.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what comes of that and the direction the superintendents want to take,” he said. “It’s unfortunate because it’s out of our hands. The coaches aren’t making those decisions. We don’t get paid enough to do that.
“I understand everybody is looking out for the safety of the kids but one of the major parts they’re missing is the mental health of the kids. It helps the kids a lot to be out here interacting with each other, running around and getting out of the house. That’s important.”
Ramirez said none of his players have tested positive for COVID-19 since the voluntary workouts started last month. He added that an average of more than 50 players have shown up daily.
Another matter of concern for Ramirez and the Tigers is the turf of the football field that was torn up last week when a strong gust of wind blew the visiting bleachers about 30 feet on to the field. Ramirez said insurance should cover the cost to have the turf replaced in the affected areas.
Unfortunately, we must pause workouts until further notice because the visitor bleachers decided to unroot from the ground during the storm yesterday.😑#MotherNature | #TigerPride🐯 pic.twitter.com/wfpmt7F0AN
— Marana Tiger Football (@MaranaFB) August 30, 2020
The following are video interviews with Ramirez and assistant coach Phillip Steward along with sophomore team captain Samuel Brown and senior lineman Josh Hendrickson.
Steward, who will coach outside linebacker and running backs, played for Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin when Sumlin coached at Houston. Sumlin recruited Stewart out of high school in Houston. Steward was a four-year letterman with the Cougars and evolved to an All-Conference USA selection as a senior in 2012. As a junior, he led all linebackers in the nation with six interceptions. He tried out for the St. Louis Rams and Houston Texans and played briefly in the Fall Experimental Football League and CFL before starting his coaching career three years ago as defensive coordinator at Willcox under former Arkansas standout linebacker Alonzo Highsmith Jr.
Brown was thrown into the starting quarterback role with the Tigers because of injuries during the last eight games of their 1-9 season last year. Only a sophomore, he was voted a captain by his peers.
Hendrickson, 6-foot and 240 pounds, is especially eager to get on the football field. He played in only the opening game last season, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury. The year before that, as a sophomore, he was behind Arizona recruit Jordan Morgan at offensive tackle on the depth chart.
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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.