Zone Read: A Season Like No Other Approaching

Arizona Sports News online

Let Them Play AND Attend

“Zone Read” has heard the whispers from districts around the Valley leaning towards not allowing fans into stadiums once games (hopefully) get started the first Friday of October.

For everyone involved, let’s hope these decision makers re-think the ridiculousness of empty stadiums this fall.

What sort of precedent does this send to the players? 

It’s ok for you to be on the field tackling, sweating and bleeding on, well…everyone but we, as a district, can’t figure out a way to safety social distance by requiring masks in an open-aired high school stadium.

Come on, you’re overthinking this.

Have you seen the herds of people who flood Valley grocery stores or spend hours in restaurants waiting for a table and then taking in a meal – despite the ongoing pandemic?

Here’s your rough draft, courtesy of the “Zone Read.”

Let’s start by utilizing the ENTIRE stadium for fan control and distancing, that includes the back of both end zones and surrounding track.

Let’s isolate the bands in opposite corners, as well as place the student section in a specific, safe location.

Let’s allow fans to bring their own food and drinks in moderation (checked at the gate) and close concession stands once the game starts as those can be high traffic areas, especially at halftime, where students like to congregate to socialize in large groups. 

Let’s temperature check every single person who comes through the gate and maybe consider only allowing fans from the home team to attend games that week. Yes, that’s not ideal but at least it guarantees families the opportunity to see their kids play four regular season games in person.

I realize districts fear potential lawsuits if someone contracts COVID but you can’t tell me, if planned and executed properly, the so-called “risk” isn’t worth the reward. Remember, it’s a virus, which can be contracted pretty much any where at any time in any type of surrounding.

If, understandably, you’re not comfortable attending a game — simply stay home.

Districts, please don’t rush to judgement. 

No one in this case is afforded the luxury of a do-over.

Coyote Ugly

Most coaches will tell you their teams will learn far more from losses than they will from wins.

Even Arizona prep blue blood football programs like Centennial fall into that category.

After coasting through their 5A in-state slate last fall, the Coyotes (remember, it’s “Ki-Yotes”) ran into a deeper and more battle-tested Hamilton squad in a 28-19 season-ending home loss in the opening round of the Open Division playoffs.

It was an abrupt and painful mid-November cold dose of reality for a squad who outscored their in-state opponents 398-110 before running into the more battle-tested Huskies. 

“Every game is important, especially in the Elite Eight,” long-time head coach Richard Taylor said to the “Zone Read.” “There are no easy games. You better be ready and you better make sure your number two’s are ready…because you never know when they’re going to be number one’s.”

Taylor is referring to Centennial losing three key linebackers early in the Hamilton game.

The 2020 version is not only loaded with talent — but maturity and leadership, traits some feel was lacking from last year’s senior group.

Presently, the Coyotes are set to play a ramped up 6A schedule which could feature a rematch with Hamilton, as well as fellow Open Division participants Pinnacle and Chaparral, as well as 6A State Champion Liberty.

The formula for success remains the same.

“We got running backs, we’ve got offensive linemen,” Taylor explained in the describing the makeup of his roster. “I think our defensive line will be a strength this year. I think we have some really outstanding leaders.”

Centennial will have strength in numbers with the addition of a handful of transfers, as well as mainstays in defensive end/tight end D.J. Gleash, running back Daxon Linholm, tackle/guard Kaiden Miles, running back/linebacker Taje Rigby and cornerback/wide receiver D.J. Williams.

Under center, senior Josh Gasca is expected to take over for steady Jonathan Morris.

“He’s really improved a lot,” Taylor said of Gasca. “He’s a good leader. He knows what he’s doing. If he’s the guy, we’ll be in good hands.”

Fighting For Answers

Thursday morning news broke that eight University of Nebraska football players sued the Big Ten over their decision to postpone the upcoming fall season.

One of those eight names is pretty familiar to the “Zone Read” and people who follow high school football in Arizona: Noa Pola-Gates.

The Pola-Gates’ family, as well as the seven other Husker student-athletes, are seeking specific answers for cancelation and believes the conference is in breach of contract by not following its governing documents, under which athletes are third-party beneficiaries.

In short, these families are seeking a paper trail which shows an actual vote, by the Big Ten’s presidents and chancellors, to postpone took place. 

“It all just started with parents wanting answers,”  Amy Pola-Gates said to the “Zone Read.” “They put out a schedule one week and then call it the next week with no explanation. Basically, the Big Ten is just telling us, it is what it is.”

Some of the biggest disputes in the case involve the data used to reach the decision, as well as who voted and how did the conference, who is a non-profit organization, held and recorded the vote.

After hearing nothing back from the Big Ten, the group opted to take legal action.

Attorney Mike Flood is representing the eight Nebraska players, including the former Williams Field High star, Pola-Gates.

Amy Pola-Gates said the Nebraska group has received support from parents of players at Big Ten schools Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa.

“It was the one time, I think, all the parents weren’t snooty to each other,” Amy quipped. “Everyone is just asking for transparency. That’s the one thing we all teach our boys. Ask those tough questions, especially when people are making decisions about your life and how it changes your life.”

She also stressed her concern over COVID-19 and continuing to make safety on all campuses a top priority. Amy said her son, as well as every other Husker football player, “has basically been in quarantine for six months.”

This was expected to be a breakout season for the redshirt freshman safety who’s now fully healthy after suffering a knee injury in practice last November.

The former four-star recruit has added nearly 25 pounds to his frame since arriving in Lincoln. 

More importantly, he finished the spring semester with a 3.3 GPA. 

German Tank

At first glance, you’d never guess Boulder Creek’s Sinjin Schmitt is only a sophomore.

Flip on his freshman Hudl and it’s easy to see why the Jaguars’ coaching staff feel he has the potential to a difference maker in their program sooner than later. Even dating back to youth football, this kid has been dragging bodies up and down the field.

“Six-three, 205 right now, he’s 15 years old,” senior quarterback and University of New Mexico signee Bear Milacek said with a smile to the “Zone 
Read.” “He runs really hard. He’s not thinking about anything else when he has the football in his hands. I like his attitude on the field for sure.”

Besides a great attitude, Schmitt brings incredible strength, athleticism and versatility on both sides of the ball. He’s listed as a fullback, wide receiver and linebacker and is already no stranger to the weight room with thighs the size of tree trunks.  

Schmitt’s name…and game, will be hard to forget in the coming years.