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Santa Rita High School scraps football season due to lack of players

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Santa Rita High School will not field a football team for the rest of the 2022 season after Tucson Unified School District officials said players' safety was compromised due to low participation numbers.

Players on this year's roster will not be allowed to play for other schools this season, a TUSD spokeswoman told the Star on Thursday. They can play for a new school next season without penalty unless Santa Rita is able to field a team. In that case, players would be subject to the AIA's transfer rules.

Santa Rita's issues stem from the fact there "are not enough players for the team," a fact that puts players' health and safety at risk, the TUSD spokeswoman said.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Santa Rita athletic director Tony Gabusi said he could not comment.

Santa Rita opened its season with back-to-back shutout losses to Globe and Laveen Heritage Academy before forfeiting its games against Palo Verde, Phoenix Cortez and Wittmann Mountainside. The Eagles were scheduled to play Tanque Verde on Friday night.

Santa Rita is the second TUSD school in as many years to scrap its season due to lack of players.

Palo Verde canceled the 2021 varsity season, citing student safety issues stemming from a small roster. The Titans had just two seniors and six juniors on their roster, meaning the school’s eight sophomores and 22 freshmen would have been asked to play significant snaps at the varsity level.

Thursday's news is another blow to Santa Rita, a team that went 34-7 from 2007-09 and as recently as 2009 was playing for a state championship. Coaches Kris Heavner, Jeff Pichotta, Cody House, Riki Valdez, Richard Sanchez and Tom Joseph have all struggled since Jeff Scurran's departure; the Eagles haven't won more than three games in a season since '09.

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