Pedersen Prep Football Preview (Special Religion-Affected Thursday Edition)

If you check out fellow Weekly columnist Tom Danehy's latest cry for help rant in this week's issue, you'll see his topics include displeasure at how football games don't seem to stick to their traditional days anymore. College football, specifically.

But I doubt even Danehy can find fault with the reason that the majority of the high school football games in Arizona this week are being played tonight, a Thursday, instead of the normal Friday.

Friday is the start of Yom Kippur, considered in the Jewish faith as the holiest of days, and one that involves fasting and other activities that would make playing in (or watching) football impossible tomorrow night.

Most years either Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) falls on a Friday, but it wasn't until about 10 years ago or so that anything was done to adjust prep football schedules to accommodate the holy day. And the changes weren't done out of sympathy; rather, it was to avoid litigation.

In 1999 the parents of Sahuaro High School player Isaac Greenberg threatened to sue TUSD — shocking, I know: TUSD involved in a lawsuit — if their son's game against Cottonwood Mingus wasn't moved to Thursday. The change occurred, and within a few years nearly every Tucson-area game during the applicable week each season was shifted to Thursday. Other parts of the state have followed suit, to where about 60 percent of this week's games statewide are happening tonight instead of Friday.

The exceptions are usually related to schools in small towns in far corners of the state, who often travel long distances for games and, as such, want to avoid kids getting home at 2 a.m. on a school night.

State census information notes only about 1.6 percent of Arizonans are Jewish, which you'd think wouldn't be enough to make motivate such a massive scheduling change. But considering this state's heavy devotion to other religions (do you really think prep sports can't occur on Sundays in Arizona for any other reason?) the once-a-football-season shift isn't that big of a deal.

As a result, local prep football fans get two nights of game choices. Among the better ones:


Ironwood Ridge (1-1) at Canyon del Oro (2-0): The Battle for Oro Valley has been all IRHS of late. Might that change this year?

Catalina Foothills (2-0) at Cienega (0-2): Foothills hasn't started 3-0 in more than a decade. Cienega has never started 0-3. This is the first real test for the Falcons under new coach Jeff Scurran, who gets to match wits with old nemesis Nemer Hassey, coaching foes from their days at Sabino and Sahuaro, respectively.

Sunnyside (2-0) at Salpointe Catholic (3-0): Sunnyside has opened with quality wins over a pair of Phoenix-area schools, while Salpointe has a trio of blowout victories won in three different states (Arizona, California and Nevada).


Empire (0-2) at Walden Grove (0-2): This will be the first-ever game in Walden Grove's own stadium, which has been carved out of and built around a chunk of the adjacent Sahuarita Park.