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Vikings are back: Fall sports get underway at Williams High School

Junior Drew Logan runs around a defender during a preseason practice at Williams High School Aug. 26. The Vikings first official practice is Sept. 7. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Junior Drew Logan runs around a defender during a preseason practice at Williams High School Aug. 26. The Vikings first official practice is Sept. 7. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — After several starts and stops and immense uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic, Williams High School athletics is on track for a fall sports season. Vikings football, volleyball and cheer have been hitting the gym and fields for preseason practices in preparation for the official season.

“Things are changing, the feeling I get from AIA (Arizona Interscholastic Association) is they are going with what they have,” said Williams High School Athletic Director Phillip Echeverria. “Of course, if they have a big outbreak things could change.”

Up until now, schools have been allowed to practice under out-of-season/summer rules per the AIA bylaws.

The AIA has abridged the fall sports season to accommodate the time available before winter sports begin. Because of the late start of the fall season, the Executive Board approved the winter season to begin one week later than normal.

This new schedule allows for schools and districts who are not able to start on the earliest possible date to join competition when feasible and still be eligible for the postseason, provided those school teams meet conference minimums.

Beginning Aug. 31, WHS volleyball began official practices with football set to officially begin Sept. 7.

Although many schools have committed to a fall season, schools have until Sept. 2 to commit for volleyball and Sept. 10 for football.

“Some regions have been restructured,” Echeverria said about football. “But all of the North Region is a go — Fredonia, El Cap, Joe City, Mogollon and Mayer.”

Echeverria said the AIA has shifted some volleyball regions with several schools in the north forfeiting the season.

“El Cap and Fredonia have been placed in the Central Region and Basis has dropped out,” he said.

Volleyball and football schedules are expected to be finalized Sept. 14.

The first varsity volleyball game is Sept. 21, and the first football game is Oct. 7. Echeverria expects that game to be with Bagdad.

All fall sports will have an opportunity for a championship tournament. The minimum number of contests to qualify for the postseason, regular season maximums, region tournaments and all postseason qualifying procedures are being set by the region and conference committees.

Echeverria said the top four teams from each volleyball region will go to state. For football, each region will take the top two teams to qualifiers.

“For example the top team from the north will play the number two team from the east, and the number two team from the north will play the number one from the east,” he said.

After those games, teams will move to the semifinals and finals.

“Eight teams will go to the playoffs instead of 12 to allow time for more games,” he said.

Echeverria said the football state championship will be the Saturday of Thanksgiving week. Volleyball will be Nov. 13 and 14.

For winter sports, Echeverria said the AIA has delayed the start by one week.

“Instead of starting the first week of November, I believe it will start Nov. 9,” he said. “The first competition will be the week after Thanksgiving instead of on Thanksgiving.”

Echeverria said WHS athletics teams have been following the AIA guidelines for safe practices and will continue to adhere to them when official practices begin.

The AIA guidelines are currently being reviewed and will be updated to match the Arizona state guidelines for return to in-person classes.

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