The Payson High School football program suffered a damaging blow when Snowflake backed out of a preseason scrimmage with the Longhorns.
PHS athletic director Dave Bradley says he received an e-mail from his Snowflake counterpart, Ken Hewish, last week canceling the traditional preseason scrimmage. The reason was that Snowflake coach Neil Westover wanted to scrimmage Chandler Basha where he had an acquaintance working as coach.
According to Hewish, Basha coach Tim McBurney has agreed to travel to Snowflake each fall for the scrimmage. Because all future scrimmages would be held in Snowflake, the Lobos would not have to travel to Chandler.
McBurney is an old coaching friend from my days in Tempe. Knowing him as I do, I don't think he forced Snowflake's hand in dumping the Longhorns in favor of Basha.
Last fall, Payson traveled to Snowflake for the preseason scrimmage.
In high school football, scheduling is done in two-year blocks on a home-and-away basis. That meant Snowflake was expected to travel to Payson for the Aug. 20 scrimmage.
By canceling, Snowflake coaches and school officials did not violate any AIA rules because those regulations do not cover preseason football scrimmages.
Hewish said he checked with the AIA and was told he could make any decision he wished regarding the scrimmages.
But by canceling at the last minute, Snowflake violated a word-of-honor code among coaches, schools and athletic directors.
The two-year block, home-and-away scheduling has been a given since the AIA first allowed preseason scrimmages to be held.
If in the first year of the block, Payson traveled to Snowflake, the Lobos should have reciprocated and scrimmaged in Payson this fall.
Most coaches would agree, it would have been the ethical thing for Snowflake to do.
There is no good excuse for not living up to the commitment of reciprocating last fall's scrimmage in Snowflake.
"I know I've made some enemies in Payson but I went with what my coach wanted," Hewish said. "I understand they are upset over there, but frankly I've been shafted a few times by Payson in scheduling."
Had Snowflake canceled earlier in the year, Bradley might have been able to find a replacement opponent for Payson. At this late date, Bradley's chances of finding another team are slim.
The importance of the preseason scrimmages cannot be overestimated. The coaches use the scrimmages to evaluate personnel and settle on starting lineups before the regular season begins a week later.
For players, it's the opportunity to finally knock heads against an opponent after hitting only your teammates for the past three weeks.
It also provides the players the opportunity to earn a starting position and impress their coaches in game-like conditions, and provides on-the-field experience that allows the younger athletes to mature and better understand the game.
It was for those reasons coaches lobbied the AIA years ago to allow the scrimmages.
In Snowflake's decision to not play the scrimmage, there were no winners.