Zone Read: The Best Interest Of Everyone

Happy 4th of July week to each and every one of you. 

Please stay safe in whatever you choose to do this weekend.

Here’s this week’s “Zone Read.”

The Right Call

Here we sit in early July with still more questions than answers. 

Regardless of your political views and what you make of it all, the coronavirus cases in Arizona continue to escalate at an alarming rate. We are, once again, a lightening rod of controversy, the butt of all jokes and the state people nationally look at and shake their heads as we shut down/restrict certain businesses once again.

Sorry, this issue isn’t just going to “go away” like some predicted in its infancy now several months back. 

Yet, instead of social distancing many are simply…well, socializing.

Good ‘ole State Forty Eight turns to Florida and Texas and says, “Hold my beer.”

Masking up, physically distancing and keeping yourself and those around you safe isn’t difficult, it’s common sense. It’s necessary. 

I applaud Red Zone Elite Tournaments for postponing their July 11-12 7-on-7 and Big Man event in the west Valley earlier this week. It was only scheduled to be middle school age and younger. 

It’s just not the right time or place for these types of events, especially considering Monday’s news, as we predicted last week, that the 2020 AZHS football and entire fall athletic schedule will be pushed back.

In a “normal” time in society, tournaments like this have a place but every single high school workout I attended over the past couple of weeks has been meticulous when it comes to following guidelines regarding player safety.

“I don’t think this is the right time to be doing these tournaments,” long-time Higley head coach Eddy Zubey said to the “Zone Read.” “My thought is what happens if a player plays in one of these events and gets COVID then the following week spreads it to its high school team? We talk to our kids and ask them to do what’s right for our program. Be a team player.”

Bingo.

Titan Up

One area of the Valley which seems to be a COVID hot spot is Arcadia where new head coach Vance Miller is on high alert when it comes to the safety on campus as a new era of Titan football gets underway. 

“Yeah, we’re worried, we take everything extremely serious,” Miller said to Sports360AZ.com. “You can’t come on to campus without a mask on. Our coaches are wearing masks…we do our temperature checks on coaches and players every morning.”

He’s gone so far as ask his players if any of their family members aren’t feeling well, even if they don’t have typical COVID-type symptoms, to be self-aware. If they’re even slightly under the weather, he’s encouraging that player to take a day or two off from workouts before returning to campus and potentially impacting the health of others.

— Arcadia Football (@TitanFootballAZ) June 15, 2020

“Right now is not the right time to be greedy with our players,” Miller explained. “We’re fortunate enough that we’re still getting together. Everybody wants the same thing. We want to be with our [players]. Our [players] want to be with us.” 

Bulldog Mentality

Titan Widjaja’s journey since graduating from Verrado High School in 2019 has been a fascinating ride which, this summer, made another sharp turn and added another chapter to his football journey.

After an injury-filled senior season Widjaja, who accounted for 30 total touchdowns in 16 varsity games, decided to give up football and focus on academics while attending ASU. However, his love for the game never left and he eventually enrolled at Division III power Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio this past January with the goal of starting behind center this season.

While home for spring break, the pandemic hit. Complicating matters was his mom remarrying which changed his FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) status at Mount Union. Since D-III schools don’t give athletic scholarships, Widjaja’s tuition this fall was scheduled to jump close to $8,000 per semester to attend and play at the private school. 

So Widjaja, who has immediate family in California, decided to walk-on at Fresno State. With his dad being a full-time Fresno resident, he is taking summer classes to establish in-state residency to drop his tuition as an in-state student moving forward.

He’s also been training with former FSU quarterback Marcus McMaryion, who went 21-4 as Fresno’s starter and engineered a win over ASU in the 2018 Las Vegas Bowl in his final collegiate game.

McMaryion also introduced Widjaja to David Carr, the most decorated quarterback in Fresno State history and former top overall pick of the 2002 NFL draft by the then-expansion Houston Texans. Carr, who coaches at a Bakersfield high school, hosts Widjaja at his house on the weekends for throwing sessions.

“Throwing at David Carr’s house is an unreal feeling,” Widjaja said to the “Zone Read.” “Seeing all of his awards and accolades he collected at Fresno State is incredible…for myself and being in the presence of a great player like him makes me just want to do it even more.” 

As a walk on, he will join Fresno’s workouts later in July.

Another New Bulldog

One of the top Arizona junior college coaches in history is taking his game to the high school level in the same eastern Arizona community.

O’Mera takes over the Bulldog program after Eric Hjalmarson resigned back in February. The Bulldogs went 15-8 in Hjalmarson’s two seasons as head coach and won the 3A South Region last fall finishing 8-3. 

“The neat thing about high school programs is you get to build your own tradition and kids,” he said to the “Zone Read.” “You get a chance to be a Bulldog and build some pride.”

He has experience at the prep level – coaching high school ball at New Mexico Military Institute and looks forward to keeping Safford’s program on an upward trajectory following last season’s success.

O’Mera plans to run the same system he did EAC.

“Football is football.”

Let’s just hope we get to see it at some point when the time right…sooner than later.