Zone Read: COVID-19’s New Normal

Appreciate everyone’s patience as the “Zone Read” stepped away for a week to help the Sports360AZ.com crew with the National Football League draft chaos. Big congrats to Austin Jackson, Brian Lewerke, Bryce Perkins and every other former AZHS player who landed on an NFL roster.

Here’s to each and every one of your continued safety during COVID-19. We’re getting closer to at least working towards the “old normal” so please continue to exercise caution for yourself and those around you.

Here’s this week’s “Zone Read.”

Homeschooling…For Good?

It goes without saying the current pandemic has not only greatly impacted present day “life” as we know it but will most certainly change “routines” for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, around the country. 

When it comes to homeschooling as we’re seeing this spring, obviously due to necessity, it got the “Zone Read” questioning if more parents may opt to continue this trend in the fall, considering most class sizes at the bigger Arizona high schools range anywhere from 25-35 students.

Chandler’s Rick Garretson, for one, believes even if more kids are homeschooled in the future, it won’t necessarily lead to a steep decline in football participation.

Mostly because kids are kids and football is football. The two intertwined make for a unique bond not shared amongst those outside that sacred circle.

“Not sure how many kids [homeschooled] would [impact] say, 6A,” he said to the “Zone Read.” “That’s a parent’s decision, regardless of school classification. We have a homeschooled player in our program and it has worked out without any issues.” 

The “Zone Read” feels the aftermath of COVID-19 will impact all high school sports, in some capacity, as both parents and their children further educate themselves on the virus and its habits moving into the second half of 2020. 

Coyote Pack

Several schools and football teams have been selfless during the pandemic, stepping up and helping others in need. Each and every one of these deserve applause for their proactive approach when our community, city and state need it most.

One of those is the Centennial Coyotes who helped assist the Saint Marys Food Bank recently. 

Maybe no player on the Yotes’ roster is more active with his off-the-field philanthropic work than D.J. Gleash – the 5A Defensive Lineman of the Year who was a regular in opposing backfields last season as a junior.

“I’m thankful to be healthy,” Gleash explained to the “Zone Read.” “Hearing all the stories of people struggling right now, I just feel the need to help out. I enjoy giving back to the community, knowing I’m making a difference.”

As for his work on Friday nights in the fall…”Zone Read” turned to good friend Cody Cameron from ArizonaVarsity.com for the scout.

“D.J. Gleash is a player who consistently gets to the quarterback with his relentless motor,” he said. “His 13.5 sacks were against some of the top programs in the state and the nation (Mater Dei). He’s athletic off the edge and slippery between the tackles and guards. He’s also quick on underneath stunt rushes getting to the quarterback. He’s a smart and fast football player.”

Did we mention the 3.3 GPA?

Offer this kid.

Track(ing) Football Success

This is the time of year some of Arizona’s best football players are normally ramping up to the state track and field championships. Whether it be sprinters, shot putters, high jumpers, hurdlers or any other event – the spring has traditionally been a time for these athletes to not only stay in shape but focus on an area which will benefit them in the fall, as well.

Case in point: Hamilton star wide receiver and Colorado signee Brenden Rice, whose increased speed and quickness this past season was evident from Huskies’ Week Zero win over Chaparral in north Scottsdale. Per our Sports360AZ recruiting expert Jordan Hamm, Huskies’ head coach Mike Zdebski was the person who urged Rice to try track.   

— Cody Cameron (@CodyTCameron) November 2, 2019

One coach who’s quite familiar with both sports is Pinnacle’s Andrew Hurley, who serves as the Pioneers’ defensive coordinator, as well as a number of different roles’ in the Neers’ boys and girls track programs.

“I think that track is not only helpful for the athlete’s speed and acceleration, but it also keeps the athletes competing in something they are maybe not as comfortable in,” Hurley said to the “Zone Read.”  “So yes I think the lack of track season could affect football but if there is anything I know about all football players, they are driven. They are finding ways on their own to lift weights and work on speed and acceleration during these hard times.”

With that being said, Hurley stressed nothing brings out the best in athletes like competition on the biggest stage of high school athletics.

Waiting On Approval

There’s a CENTRAL Phoenix school hoping to get the final green light from their district for something which would be a game-changer for not only said school but neighboring schools, as well. Further, the AIA will have post-season hosting options when it comes to the fall and spring seasons moving forward.

This announcement isn’t “officially” public yet so, for now, I suppose all my Zone Readers will just have to connect the dots.

Hey, did you happen to see this tweet I posted a couple of weeks ago?

While it’s not a completely uncommon site to see in our desert landscape, those BOBCATS are certainly breathtaking up close and personal. I’ve encountered all kinds of amazing wildlife here in Arizona but that was a NEW one to encounter just after dawn on a warm spring Saturday.

Anyway, when this is pushed through, you can bet said school coaches and officials will FIELD plenty of calls about the much-needed upgrade.

Stay tuned…or just read between the lines above.