AIA Moves Forward With Fall Plan; Rising FC Concerned With Field Conditions

High school sports in the fall are still on, but the Arizona Interscholastic Association knows it must remain flexible. (Cronkite News file photo)

By Nicholas Barker and José Solís

PHOENIX – After Gov. Doug Ducey unveiled his plan Thursday for schools to reopen, the Arizona Interscholastic Association continued to prepare for a season of fall sports.

Ducey’s plan calls for school districts and charter schools to begin distance-learning by the first day of their traditional instructional calendar. Schools will then use data from public health officials to decide when to reopen for in-person classes.

AIA commissioner David Hines said the association is trying to stay as flexible as possible.

“The biggest challenge we have is this moving target of what we can and what we can’t do based on the numbers we have,” Hines recently told Cronkite News. “So we have multiple plans.”

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The AIA will also focus on logistics. The National Federation of High School Sports recently approved allowing 80 yards of sideline space from the 10-yard line to the other 10-yard line to aid social distancing. The organization must also decide how to handle fans in the stands and specific situations like student sections.

Individual schools can decide if they want to proceed at all. On Thursday, Chinle, the Navajo Nation’s largest high school, said it would not be playing fall sports.

And the NIAA, the governing body of prep sports in Nevada, announced Thursday night that fall sports, including football, will be played in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That is a route the AIA hopes not to go.

“We’re going to do everything we can to have some type of a season for all of our kids,” Hines said. “But I really don’t want to push back and have the spring sports kids suffer a second year in a row. That’s not fair to them. Some of the seniors that we had lost that opportunity.”

Field conditions concern for Rising staff

The pandemic has required teams to adjust on the fly and one of the casualties appears to be the conditions of fields.

After Phoenix Rising FC played its first road game of the season against Orange County FC recently. Rising players and staff expressed disappointment not only in the tie but the poor field conditions.

United Soccer League 2019 MVP Solomon Asante shared his frustration on Twitter after the game, saying, “We came with a mission to pick 3 points, but the pitch or field wasn’t playable.”

Asante wasn’t the only one upset with the conditions.

“Much of (the field) was brown and very hard,” Rising coach Rick Schantz said. “Their solution because this was an ESPN game was to paint it green. And when you paint fields, it makes it extremely sticky, and the ball doesn’t roll very well and it also makes the field very hard.”

Because of a modified season that ensures teams minimize their travel, Phoenix will play at Orange County again on Saturday. The Rising will look to remain at the top of their group and continue their unbeaten start to the season.

Diamondbacks scout COVID victim

COVID-19 took the life of Diamondbacks scout Johan Maya, the team announced in a statement Friday.

“Johan was a great person, a family guy and true baseball man,” it said.

Maya started his career as a professional player and went on to coaching before joining the Diamondbacks as a scout in 2019 following 15 years with the Houston Astros.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Edulig, and children, in addition to his family and friends in both the Dominican Republic, where he worked, and in his native Venezuela. His loyal friendship will truly be missed.”

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