Knights football

Lake Havasu running back Issac Stopke carries the ball during the fourth quarter of a 4A Southwest Regional game at Lee Barnes Stadium last season. 

Lake Havasu High athletic events will look different this year, as fans will be allowed inside Lee Barnes Stadium and The Arena this fall.

It’s a drastic change compared to last fall when spectators were only allowed in those venues if they had one of three guest passes from an athlete, coach, manager or from the spirtline. There were limited to no crowds throughout the state for high school athletics due to the covid-19 pandemic. LHHS didn’t allow any spectators from road teams during the fall and winter.

“We’re extremely excited and happy that our community gets to come and see our games,” Lake Havasu High Athletic Director Dustin Zampogna said. “We hope we get as many fans as possible to be able to show off our beautiful field and that our community helps and supports us.”

The Lake Havasu football team will host Lee Williams on Sept. 10 for its first home of the season. The Knights volleyball team will open their season against the Volunteers at The Arena – the Lake Havasu High gym – on Aug. 31.

“It’s been some time since we’ve been able to fill it up with our community due to the AIA restrictions and the covid restrictions,” Zampogna said about Lee Barnes Stadium. “As it stands right now, we’re excited to have everybody come back.”

The school had no limits on spectators during the 2021 spring season after limited crowds for fall and winter sports. During the start of the winter season, the Arizona Interscholastic Association allowed for two parents or legal guardians of athletes to attend home games.

Originally, the AIA wasn’t going to allow spectators for the winter season, but that changed when the board voted to allow parents or guardians to come watch their athletes.

The AIA later voted to allow more spectators for winter season home games, but left it up for school districts to determine the amount of fans. LHHS never changed its policy on spectators despite the AIA’s allowance.

Heading into last fall, the pandemic brought uncertainty for high school athletics across the state. Teams weren’t allow to meet and hold conditioning workouts throughout last summer.

Since starting practice on Aug. 9, LHHS athletes have expressed the return to normalcy compared to last year.

“It definitely feels a lot better knowing that we have games this year,” senior volleyball player Carly Cordero said. “It was a really good start this year with open gyms actually happening and we were able to mesh as a team this offseason.”

“It definitely feels a lot more normal,” senior swimmer Aubrie Carver said. “We started a whole month earlier than we did last year and having regular practices with everyone in the pool at the same time…last year all our meets were virtual so it’ll be fun to have in-person meets again.”

Before fall sports team were allowed to practice this summer, the AIA released a document filled with recommendations of returning to athletic activity guidelines.

The guidelines are similar to the protocols put in place prior to last fall, but a notable difference are guidelines for individuals who are fully vaccinated against covid-19.

Fully vaccinated people have less restrictions and can refrain from testing if they’ve been exposed or have had close contact with someone who is infected the virus. Vaccinated individuals can also refrain from quarantine if they’re asymptotic. However, vaccinated people will be asked to stay home if they begin to show symptoms.

The pandemic did affect athletics with a drop in participation numbers. For the 2019-20 academic year, LHHS had 485 athletes across all sports and that number went down to 394 to 2020-21. LHHS conducting distance and hybrid learning formats throughout most of the school year possibly led to a decrease in numbers for athletics.

“Our numbers are up, so we have three programs for football this year, which we haven’t had that in the past few years,” Zampogna said. “Our number of athletes for girls golf, boys golf, swim, the numbers are either consistent or up from last year, which is what we’re hoping to see this year.”

The pandemic has affected buses for the school district, as there’s a shortage of bus drivers, which could impact travel for athletics. Zampogna encourages anyone to apply to the positon.

“The shortage of the bus drivers is obviously a concern, but we’re still making the most of it right now,” Zampogna said. “If we’re talking about normalcy that is the one thing that is not normal this year. So we’re looking for bus drivers.”

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