YUHSD suspends athletics

Cibola High School head football coach Steven Fritz (right), wearing a protective mask, shows how he wants a drill executed Thursday night at Raider Field. 

Athletes were out of the house and back on the field — a sense of normalcy that lasted just seven days, however.

One week after local athletes and coaches returned to campus for on-field conditioning sessions, the Yuma Union High School District decided on Monday to suspend all in-person athletics.

The decision by the District was a result of the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases throughout Yuma — including a positive test involving one of the programs in town.

“We said (when we were reopening) we’re going to be taking in the presence of COVID-19 in the community. Obviously, with the uptick (of cases), and now with all the mayors in Yuma County requiring masks…Right now there are more important things I think than in-person (activities) so we can make sure everyone is safe,” YUHSD Associate Superintendent Tim Brienza told the Sun.

Brienza noted “some people have had exposure” to the virus and added one student athlete — who had not been cleared to return to practice — had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We had one program that did have a positive test of one of the students who was not cleared to participate, but every person (in contact) was notified and they’ve been self-quarantined,” Brienza said. “The student who tested positive did not participate in practice, but was around. So, we’ve asked that program to self-quarantine as well.”

The number of positive COVID-19 cases will not be disappearing anytime soon, which leaves YUHSD administrators to take guidance from the Yuma County Health Department.

“We’ve met with them two or three times in the last couple weeks,” Brienza said. “Just talking about the status of where we’re at as a community. To give you a concrete number (of when it’ll be appropriate to return), I can’t do that. We will just have to take guidance from all the health care professionals and use that as one of the barometers.”

While the YUHSD schools shut down, Yuma Catholic’s athletic programs will still be working out and conditioning this week. However, all close contact sports will be halted at the end of the week.

YC’s athletic director Louis Pisano, who officially retires June 30 before Jeff Welsing begins his new role, noted the shutdown is “due to a little bit of (the coronavirus) and a little bit of general maintenance.”

According to YC football coach Rhett Stallworth — who’s still abiding by the safety protocols put in place weeks ago — his team will be meeting this week before taking off the week of the fourth of July.

Cibola head football coach, Steven Fritz, was amped to see his players return to the practice field last week. The social aspect of connecting with his guys again felt “normal.”

However, Fritz prioritizes keeping his players and family safe as the number of positive cases increases.

“I mean obviously, I don’t want to get the virus,” he said. “But I think a lot of people think this way too, that it’s even worse giving (the virus) to someone else, to someone you care about and being responsible. That’s kind of my nightmare scenario, personally.”

For some in the area, the on-field conditioning was an opportunity to see their players for the first time in months.

For Kofa’s first-year head football coach, Dave Bartlett, it was a chance to build a foundation.

However, he’s not dwelling on the missed moments and understands the importance of listening to the health officials.

“This is not a total loss for us,” Bartlett said. “The kids got to get out there and find out they have a bunch of new coaches that will make them better. We want to set a new culture, tone and expectations. There’s always something positive.

“However, I worry about our kids,” he later added. “I worry about them getting everything they need emotionally and physically outside of the school environment. We’re going to talk to the kids (Monday night) about their physical conditioning during this next phase.”

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