Miners ready to make some noise after division reclassification

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 The entire San Manuel High School athletic program will compete in the 1A Division after years competing as a 2A member.

  “I think our teams can be really competitive,” San Manuel Athletic Director Damon Lovato told the Miner during the summer.

  According to Lovato, the enrollment cutoff between 1A and 2A is 250. San Manuel’s reported enrollment was 194. Lovato was asked if the school considering appealing to petition up to 2A to remain where it had been. He stated that any enrollment below 200 eliminated a school from attempting the appeal process with the AIA.

  Sports like boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, and softball have had either recent or past success in 2A, leading some to surmise those teams can perform even better as a member of 1A.

  Football, one of the Miners’ athletic teams that has not experienced much success in recent years, might benefit from the change.

  The Miners’ football team has had just two winning games in its last season, which equals the number of one-win seasons during the same time period. They went 4-6 in three of the last seven seasons.

  Second-year San Manuel head coach Ernie Ivy now has a team in the 1A South Region along with Duncan, Ft. Thomas, St. David, and Valley Union.

  The challenges facing the Miners do not end with their region opponents, as COVID-19 has affected the team’s conditioning in addition to established guidelines, which limits the number of participants who can practice together.

  Ivy says he senses a greater appreciation for playing football among his players after COVID-19 threatened the 2020 season.

  “The kids are working hard and are happy to be out on the field,” Ivy said.

  Ivy is counting on returning players Noah Huerta, Jonathan Rodriguez, Justin Tafoya, Mathias Medina, and TJ Madrid to lead a group of inexperienced players in 2020.

  “We are a very young team with the biggest freshman class I’ve seen,” said Ivy.

  A couple of newcomers – freshman quarterback Nico Velasquez and transfer Tony Guisa – are expected by Ivy to make significant contributions this season.

  Mathias, a sophomore, finished third on the team in rushing a year ago. Huerta, a junior, finished third in receiving yards. Madrid, a senior, is the leading returning tackler from last season.

  The Miners were scheduled to open their season at home on Friday, Oct. 2, against Hayden, but the Lobos’ season was cancelled last week after the Hayden-Winkleman Unified School District announced on Sept. 14 it was cancelling fall sports. Instead, San Manuel starts its season on Friday, Oct. 9, at Duncan in what is now a five-game season – three games on the road and two at home.

Noah Huerta, who last year played wearing the #5 jersey, is one of the returning Miners that coaches will be looking toward for leadership of the younger players. Photo by Margaret Schofield
Andy Luberda (1149 Posts)

Andrew Luberda began writing for Copper Area News Publishers (CANP) in February 2013 after working 15 years in Healthcare Financial Management. Andy covers sports for 11 high schools. His stories are published in Copper Basin News, San Manuel Miner and Superior Sun, in addition to the San Tan Valley Daily PRSS and CopperArea websites. Additionally, he has written human interest stories and business profiles. In May 2012, he earned an AAS in Sports Management at Central Arizona College before graduating with a BS in Communication from Arizona State University in 2014. He and his wife, Kelli, have three sons – AJ, Kyle, and Kade.


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