Controversial delay pits players against district |

Controversial delay pits players against district

by Gregory Crofton, Tribune staff writer

A wet football field Monday morning left many South Shore residents angry and frustrated.

Despite strong wind and bright sun, wet grass at South Tahoe High’s football field almost forced South Shore Pop Warner Monday to cancel its season opener with Truckee twice in one weekend.

The game, originally scheduled Saturday, was postponed due to rain. A makeup was scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, but because the maintenance crew fertilized and watered the football field Sunday night, it was still wet Monday morning.

The crew apparently had not been told a game was going to be played on the field Monday.

The Pop Warner games finally started at noon once Steve Morales, director of facilities for South Lake Tahoe Unified School District, gave the go-ahead.

“It’s in better shape than it was this morning,” Morales said studying the field. “But it’s still a mess … if you start to tear up the field, I’m going to have to stop it.”

Morales said the school district spent months and thousands of dollars getting the field in shape for the high school team’s season opener scheduled Saturday.

After the youngsters played 24 minutes of football, Morales checked the field again and decided play could resume because the field was not being damaged.

“They watered the field last night almost like sabotage,” said David Jaurequi, vice president of Pop Warner football. “This is crazy. The high school coach invited us to play on this field this year.”

Morales said it was a case of miscommunication, not an intentional mistake.

“It’s tough. We’ve only got one football field,” he said. “We weren’t aware that the game had been rescheduled. If we had known, we wouldn’t have done it because we want the kids to play.”

Pop Warner staff members said they were even more upset because Saturday, after their games had been canceled, a softball game was played on a middle school field that was supposed to be closed.

“We pay $7 per child to help maintain these fields,” said Melinda Garratt, president of Pop Warner. “So we feel we had just as much right to play on the field Saturday. The whole thing is a double standard, that they allowed adults to use a closed field.”

Art Diaz, a 45-year-old from Truckee, waited in the stands Monday to watch his 11-year-old son play. He says Pop Warner in Truckee is also having problems finding a field to play on, often forcing them to compete on a 60-yard field.

“I think it’s a little bit shortsighted,” Diaz said. “These are future high school football players. Look at the size of these kids. They’re not gonna mess this field up. They’re only 60-70 pounds.”

A parent from South Lake Tahoe with two 10-year-olds playing Pop Warner football said the scheduling challenges associated with the league are tough to deal with. “Getting a field is the biggest problem,” said Sharyn Lipscombe. “Just getting practice fields being shoved around from field to field, it seems like soccer comes first.”

Even though Pop Warner football sometimes has trouble finding a field to play on, the number of participants in the program has doubled in two years from 90 to 180 football players.

Tim Jaureguito, coach of South Lake Tahoe High’s varsity football, came Monday to watch the action. He said key to the situation is keeping the lines of communication open. “Hey, this is our program,” Jaureguito said. “It starts down below. It’s really important that we have these guys on our field.”

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