Nogales and Rio Rico high schools ended their football seasons prematurely this week amid growing concerns over the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

The moves were part of a cascade of cancellations in the wake of Pima County’s recommendation on Monday that school districts there cease their sports programs as COVID-19 continues its rapid spread.

Nogales and Rio Rico were both scheduled to play their next games at schools in Pima County on Dec. 4 – NHS at Walden Grove and RRHS at Sahuarita. However, Walden Grove and Sahuarita both called off their seasons on Tuesday.

School officials in Rio Rico had previously said that they were considering adding another football game in addition to the remaining game at Sahuarita. But Superintendent David Verdugo said in a statement on Wednesday that that was no longer an option.

“It was our hope that we would be able to play Sahuarita on Dec. 4,” Verdugo said. “However, now that they are unable to play due to the Pima County cancelation of fall sports, we will not seek any other games and our season will conclude.”

Nogales High School, which had yet to play a game in 2020 due to coronavirus-related cancellations, was also scheduled to host Douglas on Dec. 10. However, Douglas announced on Tuesday that it was cancelling its season.

NHS Principal Tim Colgate told the NI on Wednesday afternoon that the school had decided to end the football season rather than seek another game. The cheer team’s competition schedule was also cancelled.

In addition, NHS planned to put the winter-season sports that had begun practicing on a two-week hiatus.

“We’ll be looking at the data, and if we can start back up on Dec. 14, we will,” he said of the winter-season programs.

Shannon Enciso, spokeswoman for the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District, said on Wednesday that Rio Rico’s winter sports teams would resume practice on Nov. 30.

“We will continue to follow all safety protocols and (Arizona Interscholastic Association) guidelines,” she wrote in an email.

Verdugo, in his statement about the end of the RRHS football season, acknowledged that it was a disappointing development, but said the school district was proud of the athletes and coaches for their efforts.

The Hawks football team managed to play three games during a season that was delayed due to the pandemic, and which saw a number of teams cancel games due to positive COVID-19 tests. They went 1-2, losing at Amphitheater on Oct. 30, beating Santa Rita 36-19 in Tucson on Nov. 6, and falling to Tanque Verde at home on Nov. 13.

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