PHS football

The Parker Broncs’ football team is seen with the firefighter’s axe they won in their annual game against the Wickenburg Wranglers in 2019. The Broncs will face the Wranglers on Oct. 2 at home in the shortened 2020 football season.

It looks like the 2020 Parker High football season is on, and it looks like there will be a game with Wickenburg after all. The “Battle for the Axe” is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2 at Joe Bush Stadium.

The entire fall high school sports season looked like it could be in jeopardy due to the coronavirus pandemic. Several school districts around the state had cancelled fall sports. Many of these were on or close to Native American reservations, particularly in the northern part of the state. Tribal communities, and particularly the Navajo Nation, were hit hard by the pandemic.

One high school, Tohono O’odham, cancelled sports for the entire 2020-21 school year, not just the fall.

On Aug. 14, the Phoenix Union High School District cancelled fall sports and extracurricular activities. The seventh largest school district in the state with almost 28,000 students, they are the largest district in the state to cancel fall sports.

Many districts have found themselves unable to meet the benchmarks for returning to in-person classes set by the Arizona Department of Health Services. One of these benchmarks was for coronavirus testing positivity figure of 5 percent. Dr. Chad Gestson, the Superintendent of Phoenix Union, said the positivity figure for Central Phoenix was 15 percent, three times the ADHS benchmark.

The Parker Unified School District has met all the ADHS benchmarks for reopening, and they began part-time in-person classes Tuesday, Sept. 8.

On Sept. 2, the Executive Board of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the governing body for high school sports, voted to allow the fall sports season to proceed as scheduled. This came following a meeting with their Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. The season will continue with “modifications” to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved.

The Broncs will be in the 2A Agua Fria region this season, along with the Glendale Prep Griffins, the Kingman Academy Tigers, the St. John Paul II Lions, the Tonopah Valley Phoenix and the Trivium Prep Crimson Knights.

The game with the Wickenburg Wranglers, which is a non-conference, is now referred to as the Battle for the Axe because of the firefighter’s axe that has become the trophy of the long-standing rivalry between the two schools. The winner of the game gets to keep the axe until the following season. In 2019, the Broncs defeated the Wranglers, 36-6, to win the axe until the two teams meet again.

The season will begin with a scrimmage Sept. 25 in Mohave Valley against the River Valley Dust Devils. The competitive season gets underway the following week as the Broncs face the Wranglers at home.

Like everything else this season, the following schedule is subject to change. Home dates are in bold. Game times are 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Region games are marked with “-R.”

Fri., Oct. 25 at River Valley (scrimmage)

Fri., Oct. 2 v. Wickenburg

Fri., Oct. 16 at St. John Paul II –R

Fri., Oct. 23 v. Tonopah Valley –R

Fri., Oct. 30 v. Kingman Academy -R

Fri., Nov. 6 at Glendale Prep –R

Fri., Nov. 13 at Trivium Prep –R

State 2A playoffs:  Nov. 20, Nov. 25 and Dec. 4.

State 2A Championship game:  Dec. 11 or Dec. 12.

The Broncs began their official practices on Sept. 7.

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