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The Get Behind Me, COVID prep sports season is about to get underway. Here are just some of the can’t-miss dates that are circled on our calendar.

 Sept. 2: Flowing Wells @ Amphi (football). Two schools, two different districts, two miles apart. Both schools have won state championships, but it’s been a while since either made any real noise, statewide. 

The Amphi players have been champing at the bit since last Thanksgiving, when the Pima County Health Department put an end to the football season. The Panthers, who, like just about everybody else, started the season late in hopes that COVID would be gone, were 4-0 and absolutely rolling.  

This game is being played on a Thursday to give people a head start on the Labor Day Weekend.

 Sept. 3: Marana @ Mountain View and Glendale Ironwood @ Ironwood Ridge (football). A great doubleheader, only a few miles apart. (Maybe you could watch the first half of one and catch the second half of the other.)

Because of the pandemic, Ironwood Ridge didn’t have a season last year, while Glendale Ironwood made it all the way to the 4A State Championship game. Meanwhile, Marana has a new coach and a lineup tantalizingly sprinkled with talented freshmen, while Mountain View has Coach Matt Johnson, who guided Ironwood Ridge to a state title a few years back. This once-slumbering rivalry should be heating up in the next few years.

 Sept. 9: Mountain View and Ironwood Ridge @ Marana (boys’ and girls’ swimming). At this time of year, the fans are going to want to jump in the pool with the competitors. This three-way meet should give us an idea as to the front-runner for the unofficial title of Best in the Northwest.

 Sept. 9: Flowing Wells and Marana @ Mountain View (boys’ and girls’ cross country). While the aforementioned schools with be lounging by (and competing in) the pool, these six squads will be running through the desert…in Tucson…in the summer. Cross country, as a sport, occupies the lunatic fringe of the athletic world—running up hills and through sandy washes in 100-degree heat. But it did spawn a surprisingly good movie (“McFarland, USA.”) Fortunately for the competitors who gather at Crooked Tree Golf Course near Arthur Pack Regional Park, the first race doesn’t start until 4:30. Of course, sunset for that date is still 6:37, but hey.

 Sept. 16: Pusch Ridge @ Safford (girls’ volleyball). Every athlete, coach, and fan should experience a game at one of the Graham County schools (Safford, Thatcher or Pima) at least once. It’s amazing. The local fans show up in droves. They’re polite and kinda’ quiet…UNTIL THEY’RE NOT! It’s like something out of a movie. Or two movies—“Pleasantville” meets “World War Z.” 

 Sept. 30: Amphi @ Douglas and Catalina Foothills @ Ironwood Ridge (girls’ volleyball). A big night for volleyball. The 4A Gila Division includes Amphi and Douglas, along with Sahuarita, Walden Grove, Rio Rico and the new school in the Vail District, Mica Mountain. Of those six schools, only Amphi made it to state last year and should be the favorite for the region crown. But that three-hour trip to Douglas can be daunting, hard on the legs and the focus. This game should go a long way toward determining Gila supremacy.

Back here in Tucson, look for a titanic clash in the Nighthawk gym. Both Ironwood Ridge and Foothills made it to state last year and both were ranked in the Top 10. But Foothills had to forfeit due to COVID and Ironwood Ridge got upset, 3-2 in the second round of state. This should be a monster.

 Oct. 1: Ironwood Ridge @ Canyon Del Oro (football). Bragging rights for Amphitheater District gridiron supremacy would be on the line here except for the fact that neither of these two schools will play Amphi this year.

 Oct. 6: Amphi and Ironwood Ridge @ Canyon Del Oro (boys’ golf). Here’s one where the district title can be determined. The edge should probably go to Ironwood Ridge, seeing as how they finished eighth in the state last year, they sent several individuals to state, and they even had a kid named Ben Hogan. Not too much pressure, right?

 Nov. 1-2: Division II State Championship (girls’ golf). Well, let’s see here. The Ironwood Ridge girls’ golf team won the State championship last year AND THEY HAVE THEIR ENTIRE TEAM BACK! 

Of course, they are high-school kids and they may experience an inordinate amount of pressure, seeing as how they are the prohibitive favorites to win the state crown. What, then, could be done to take some of that pressure off? Oh, I know. Let’s have the state championship tournament at Omni National in Tucson, about a 10-minute drive from the Ironwood Ridge campus. 

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