The biggest story in local sports in 2020 was the same as the biggest news story:  the effect on local sports of the coronavirus, COVID-19. It affected and changed everything, and people came to expect the unexpected.

Most of the spring high school sports season was cancelled. When fall sports began, they started later and had much shorter seasons. Many high schools around the state, mostly in Tribal areas in the north, cancelled their fall sports programs altogether.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman first ordered the schools closed for in-person classes from March 15 through March 27. That was later pushed back to April 13. On March 30, they ordered the schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

The Parker Schools responded by going to distance learning, either over the Internet or by packets students and parents could pick up at the schools. Stations were set up at various locations in the district where students could pick up their school meals.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association halted the spring high school sports season March 15, and then cancelled it altogether March 30. This caused frustration for high school seniors who wanted that last chance to make a good impression before they graduated.

For Parker High, the baseball, softball and track seasons had just started. The golf team hadn’t played their first match yet.

Two senior athletes at Parker High, softball player Hannah Honomichl and football and baseball player Jake Hill, spoke with the Pioneer about their feelings. While they acknowledged the reason for sporting events being cancelled, they were both disappointed about it.

“It sucks,” Honomichl said. “It’s not fun.”

“It really sucks,” Hill said. “It’s bad it had to end this way.”

Honomichl had played softball in all four of her years at Parker High School. She quickly emerged as the ace of the pitching staff. After several years of mediocrity, the team played well in 2019 and qualified for a state tournament play-in game. They were off to a hot start in 2020, and there were hopes this would be a good year for them.

“We were hoping to have the season go far,” she said. “Everything was going so well.”

Hill played football and baseball at Parker High. He said he enjoyed sports, and he missed being able to play.

“I really love the sport,” he said of the cancelled baseball season. “I miss playing with the coaches and the other players. I miss the games and the competition.”

As the opening of the 2020-21 school year and the fall sports season approached, it was clear that most schools would not be able to meet the state’s guidelines for when they could return to in-person classes.

Meanwhile, school districts around the state were cancelling their fall sports seasons. Many of these districts were in Tribal areas that had been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. The largest district to cancel fall sports was the Phoenix Union High School District, with 27,000 students. They cancelled their fall sports season Aug. 15.

This led to the AIA having to restructure some regions. In volleyball, Parker was in the 3A West. Odyssey Institute was also in the 3A West, and they became the first school in Metro Phoenix to cancel fall sports. The AIA moved Bourgade Catholic and Wickenburg into the 3A West.

The AIA set rules for fall sports in light of the pandemic. Among other things, attendance was restricted. Everyone attending games and athletes not on the court or field had to wear masks and practice social distancing.

The Broncs’ volleyball season began started Sept. 24, and they played just 14 regular season matches, going 12-2. The placed second in the 3A West behind Yuma Catholic. They won a state tournament play-in game, but lost in the first round of the state tournament.

The Broncs’ football season got underway Oct. 2. They played just five regular season games, going 4-1. They were 4-0 against the 2A Agua Fria region rivals, and they won a region title for the first time in 19 years. They won a state tournament play-in game, but then lost in the first round of the tournament.

As for the winter sports season, the AIA has pushed the start date to Jan. 18. However, there are still a lot of uncertainties to the season. The virus is spreading much faster in Arizona now than it was in the summer and fall. It remains to be see just what will happen in the rest of the 2020-21 high school sports season.

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