Citing safety concerns, Sierra Linda (Ariz.) cancels game vs. No. 13 Centennial (Ariz.)

Citing safety concerns, Sierra Linda (Ariz.) cancels game vs. No. 13 Centennial (Ariz.)

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Citing safety concerns, Sierra Linda (Ariz.) cancels game vs. No. 13 Centennial (Ariz.)

Phoenix Sierra Linda, outscored 436-6 in seven football games, has canceled its home game Friday night against top-ranked Peoria Centennial.

Centennial (7-0) did not consent to the cancellation, so it will go to the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Executive Board, which could impose a $1,500 fine on Sierra Linda.

Both the junior varsity and varsity games were canceled this week.

The Tolleson Union High School District put out a statement on Thursday:

“Per bylaws set forth by the Executive Board of the AIA, Sierra Linda High School has requested to cancel its game on Friday against Centennial, due to the real possibility of grave injury to its current roster of players. The team is currently undermanned due to injuries to key players in their last game. The Tolleson Union High School District puts student safety first and we do not want to do anything that would jeopardize that. It is our hope that Centennial High School would understand. Again, we thank the AIA for having this bylaw in place and we plan to adhere to their process”

Two weeks ago, Centennial shocked the nation with a 12-0 win over then No. 3 nationally ranked Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, the defending Florida 7A champion that was last shut out in 1996.

This will go down as a cancellation in the AIA/MaxPreps rankings, so Centennial will only have nine regular-season games. Centennial’s games will be divided by nine, instead of 10, so it shouldn’t impact its state playoffs seeding in the 5A  Conference.

Centennial currently is seeded No. 1.

Sierra Linda is ranked 42nd among 43 5A schools.

Sierra Linda is hoping to have key players returning to play at Gilbert Campo Verde next week. It will be Campo Verde’s Senior Night.

Centennial coach Richard Taylor said he wasn’t planning on playing star senior running back Zidane Thomas against Sierra Linda. Thomas has been nursing a tight hamstring since the Phoenix Pinnacle game.

A running clock could have been used. But Sierra Linda simply didn’t feel it would be safe with few healthy players left, according to David Hines, executive director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, who spoke with Tolleson district superintendent Nora Gutierrez.

“It’s not something that doesn’t happen,” Hines said. “We see this unfortunately, for whatever reason. In some situations, they just don’t have enough kids.”

Taylor said he is treating this like a bye week to get ready for Surprise Willow Canyon and Peoria Liberty, the final two games on its schedule, before the playoffs.

“If they feel like that’s what they (Sierra Linda) needs to do, we’ll move on,” Taylor said. “We lifted and ran hard on Monday. Tuesday was an offensive day, Wednesday was a defensive day. I told the kids, ‘You can either go through the motions or really compete against each other.’  They competed hard against each other.”

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