The goal for bringing competitive sports back to Sunnyside and campuses throughout the lower valley has challenged student athletes, parents, coaches and administrators’ resiliency but their commitment to be ready to play was rewarded when the South Central region was moved to Phase 2 Sunday, Feb. 14.

“There were people saying that it was never going to happen; don’t do it, don’t put your kids through this and kids could have bought into that and they didn’t. They said okay, we’ll practice, it’s fun anyway. And now, here we are today,” SHS Student Life and Athletic Director Dave Martinez stated during an interview Sunday.

In Phase 2, high school sports leagues can begin their modified fall sports season with football being the only COVID-19 high-risk sport. Sunnyside High School begins full contact practice, which began Tuesday, Feb. 16. The rest of the fall sports team will start the following week.

Football pads were passed out Monday, Feb. 15, beginning with seniors at noon, followed by juniors, sophomores and freshmen every 40 minutes.

“With the thousands of numbers that are being thrown into the system, a mistake had to get made I felt like, but it’s kind of scary though. I mean, because I feel there were a lot of mistakes statewide. I don’t care anymore. I thought I would be really relieved but now I hope we can just stay here. Because you can go back down to Phase 1 and that’s what I’m worried about,” Varsity Football Head Coach John Lobbestael expressed Monday.

SHS senior Alex Mojica, offensive right guard has been looking forward to receiving his pads since starting voluntary workouts in late October.

“Finally, to be able to get on the pads, feels good,” Mojica described. It feels a bit different. Different environment: different everything, the masks and COVID. But overall, I’m just excited to play!”

Resiliency is one of the school’s core values and that ability to quickly overcome adversity has been demonstrated by the ongoing and engaging actions of students, teachers, staff and parents during the pandemic.

Parents are the ones that have their students at home, and they recognize how important it is for them to experience the overwhelming positive feelings associated from participating in athletics and activities, Martinez acknowledged.

“We still need to be smart about how we do things. The last thing we want to do now is lose something that we have.”

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email

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