Published Friday, Oct. 14, 2011 | 4:23 p.m.
Updated Friday, Oct. 14, 2011 | 5:53 p.m.
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The Western High football team’s season ended Friday when school officials announced they were forfeiting the final three games after multiple players were suspended for being involved in an on-campus hazing incident.
The hazing, which was confirmed to the Sun by students and players, would have left the already short-handed team with about 14 eligible players. Instead of promoting underclassman from the junior varsity or freshman teams, it was determined those younger and undersized players would be at risk for injury.
Western was supposed to play Durango Friday, two-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman next week and Sierra Vista to close the season on Oct. 27. About seven or eight players were suspended because of an incident that occurred Wednesday, according to students.
Now, the remaining players are left with handling an abrupt end to their season. For the seniors, it’s likely the end of their football playing days. Western finished the season with a 0-6 record.
“It’s a horrible feeling,” said senior Reggie Williams, one of the team’s top players, who said he wasn’t involved in the incident. “It’s terrible. We only had three games left in high school and it’s ruined because of a hazing situation.”
Western coach Fernando Carmona was unable to comment on the situation, but his demeanor was similar to his players: in complete dismay.
“I really don’t know how to explain how I feel. We were all shocked,” Williams said.
Players were informed of the decision at an early afternoon meeting. Western also canceled the season for its lower-level teams.
On Thursday, Western initially canceled its junior varsity game against Durango, saying it planned to promote several players to the varsity team because of the hazing incident, Trailblazers coach Gary Maki said. Athletes can only play in one game each week, meaning players couldn’t play in a Thursday junior varsity game and return for a varsity contest the next day.
A day later, however, Maki received another phone call saying there would be no game altogether.
“I would have liked to have had it,” Maki said. “It was a game I feel we could have won on the field. It would have given our players quality reps for a playoff run.
“The kids were disappointed. They wanted to play,” Maki continued. “I’m sure the kids over there were disappointed, too.”
Gorman was supposed to play Western next week for its homecoming game, but acted quick and scheduled Arbor View, which had a bye.
Arbor View lost to Gorman in last year’s semifinals, and Aggies coach Dan Barnson previously said his team wouldn’t be afraid to face the two-time defending state champions. It’s a good gauge for Arbor View, which will likely be the No. 2 seed from the Northwest for the playoffs and play Gorman again in the semifinals.
For players like Williams, the reality of the season coming to a premature close is still setting in. He will attend the Canyon Springs game Friday to cheer on some friends.
“Seeing everyone else play football and not being able to is tough because I love this game so much,” he said.
A fresh coat of paint and a fresh perspective are among the changes being made around Western High School.
Western is one of five turnaround schools that missed the marks set by No Child Left Behind and now faces the challenge of increasing student achievement.
The school is the third oldest in the district and its campus lies near Decatur Boulevard and Veterans Memorial Highway. The majority of students attending Western are minorities from disadvantaged homes. Western is known for having a rough past, but students are optimistic about the future of their school.
Change is apparent according to students interviewed in September.
“When I was in eighth grade, I was told I was going to get shot or stabbed when I came to Western,” said senior Kole Yanez, 17. “That might have been true 15 years ago, but now, you don’t see that here.”
Rules are tightly enforced on campus. The school keeps a strict dress code policy and cell phone use during class time is not permitted.
Halls are designated by grade level giving students a sense of ownership and community. Pride is clearly visible at pep rallies and sporting events. The newfound pride might just be he medicine needed to alleviate the 8 percent dropout rate, the highest in the district.
“It’s like building a house. You need a strong foundation,” said Neddy Alvarez, principal. “You need those strong relationships. When kids know we care about them, the learning will take place.”
- Year built:
- Principal (Year Hired):
- Neddy Alvarez (2008)
- Mission Statement:
- “The mission of Western High School is to promote scholarship, encourage good citizenship, and embrace our cultural diversity.”
- Approximately 2,400
- Notable alumni:
- Frank Hawkins, former NFL player
Capt. Nicole Malachowski, first female Thunderbird
Ronnie Vannucci, drummer of The Killers
Tom Collins, Clark County commissioner
- School Report Card:
Compiled by Gregan Wingert
Sun reporter Paul Takahashi contributed to this report.