Foothill-Pacifica football game canceled because of COVID-19 complications


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The football game between No. 15 Foothill and No. 19 Pacifica, scheduled for Thursday at Tustin High, has been canceled because of COVID-19 complications in the Mariners’ program, Pacifica coach Vinnie Lopez confirmed Sunday.

Lopez said because of contact tracing for the virus, the Mariners (2-0) would not have enough players to safely compete against Foothill (2-0).

“It is unfortunate,” he said of the cancellation.

Lopez said Pacifica has agreed to play Brea Olinda during its previously scheduled bye in Week 5 (Sept. 23-25) but the game contract hasn’t been signed yet.

Foothill coach Doug Case said his team doesn’t have any COVID-19 issues. The Knights’ bye is in Week 3 so their next scheduled game is against La Mirada on Sept. 17. But like Pacifica, Foothill also could add a new opponent.

Orange County football has experienced relatively few canceled games so far this season because of the virus. Some of the affected schools have scrambled to find new opponents.

In other Foothill news, senior quarterback Brody Jones will miss “a few weeks” because of a separated shoulder, Case said. Jones was injured the Knights’ 24-0 victory against Tustin on Friday.

Foothill’s other victory came against Cypress, which upset No. 8 San Juan Hills last week, making the Knights a strong candidate to rise in this week’s O.C. rankings.

Please send football news to Dan Albano at dalbano@scng.com or @ocvarsityguy on Twitter

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Mission Viejo football opener vs. La Habra in jeopardy after positive COVID-19 tests in program

The La Habra and Mission Viejo football game scheduled for Friday night was in doubt late Thursday  because of potential exposure to COVID-19 by players in the Mission Viejo program.

Mission Viejo learned Thursday that there had been positive tests for the coronavirus by several players in its program, but perhaps not on the varsity team. Scheduled freshman and junior varsity games between La Habra and Mission Viejo on Thursday afternoon were canceled.

La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta at first thought the varsity game, a matchup between two of the top 10 teams in Orange County, would also be canceled.

The Saddleback Valley Unified School District, which includes Mission Viejo High, convened a board meeting Thursday night to go over the school’s options, which might include more testing and contact tracing. The board was still in its meeting late Thursday night.

The game is the long-awaited season opener for both teams after the coronavirus pandemic delayed the season for several months. The contest is supposed to be streamed live online by Fox Sports Prep Zone.

The CIF-SS just deleted this tweet saying La Habra vs. Mission Viejo would be replaced on the broadcast schedule. CIF-SS assistant commissioner Thom Simmons said it was a mistake and they do no know what will happen between Mission Viejo and La Habra. This is wild. pic.twitter.com/h1c542AA8I

— Fred J. Robledo 👨🏻‍💻 (@SGVNSports) March 12, 2021

Mission Viejo is ranked No. 3 and La Habra is No. 7 in the preseason Orange County rankings.

Mazzotta spent some of Thursday evening looking at potential replacement opponents if the Mission Viejo game is canceled.

Fred Robledo contributed to this report. 

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CIF State offers interpretations of new CDPH guidelines to help coaches, athletic directors

CIF State executive director Ron Nocetti knows keeping up with the latest guidance for high school sports is challenging for coaches and athletic directors, and it may seem to be getting tougher.

“There’s no question that it’s a difficult experience for them,” he said Friday, March 5. “That’s why we’re trying to at least provide them some of the most basic interpretations so at least they have a sense of where they stand on what they can do now with outdoor versus indoor sports.”

It was in that spirit that the state office issued its interpretations on the latest guidelines from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), which on Thursday, March 4 created a path for indoor sports to begin if they follow a college-style testing program.

Nocetti covered a few other areas in a memo sent statewide, and a more with the Southern California News Group. Here are some of the takeaways:

There appears to be different routes to play indoor sports

Indoor sports such as basketball, volleyball and wrestling remain classified in the yellow tier (minimal risk for the virus) in the state’s guidance. Most counties in the state are in the purple tier (widespread risk), but the state adjusted its rules on Thursday to allow teams, starting March 5, to play indoor sports earlier than the yellow tier if they follow stricter, college-style testing.

But Nocetti said he believes teams also could start their seasons under that college-style testing format, and transition to the non-testing, yellow tier format once their county reaches that optimal tier. Teams also could decide to wait to play until their county reaches the yellow tier, which requires a daily case rate of less than 1 per 100,000 people.

“That is how we read it,” Nocetti said of the different paths. “The exact answer to that question would have to come from the CDPH.”

Wresting was scheduled to begin Friday while basketball and boys volleyball can start March 12-13, respectively.

College-style testing needs more clarification

The college-style testing for indoor sports ask teams to to conduct either “daily antigen testingand periodic PCR testing” until their county reaches the yellow tier. The CIF State said it is seeking clarification from the CDPH on the meaning of “periodic” PCR testing.

“Does mean you have to test PCR once a week? Twice a week?” Nocetti said. “We are waiting for an answer for that.”

Nocetti believes the state will issue a “Frequently Asked Questions” section soon.

All outdoor sports are currently cleared to play

On Feb.19, all outdoor sports were allowed in counties with an adjusted case rate of 14 or less per 100,000 people. This applied to the high-contact sports such as football, water polo, soccer and lacrosse, plus baseball, softball and outdoor volleyball.

All of the counties in Southern California, and 54 of the 58 counties in the state, currently meet this 14 threshold.

The extra condition is that football and water polo players and coaches need to test weekly if the county’s case rate falls between 7 and 14.

LAWSUIT UPDATE

As expected, lawyers for two San Diego football players who won a temporary injunction against the state’s guidelines essentially dropped their lawsuit Friday because of their settlement agreement with the state Thursday over the updated guidelines released on Thursday night.

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CIF State offers interpretations of new guidelines to help coaches, athletic directors

CIF State executive director Ron Nocetti knows keeping up with the latest guidance for high school sports is challenging for coaches and athletic directors, and may seem to be getting tougher.

“There’s no question that it’s a difficult experience for them,” he said Friday, March 5. “That’s why we’re trying at least provide them some of the most basic interpretations so at least they have a sense of where they stand on what they can do now with outdoor versus indoor sports.”

It was in that spirit that the state office issued its interpretations on the latest guidelines by the California Department of Public Health, which on Thursday, March 4 created a path for indoor sports to begin if they follow a college-style testing program.

Nocetti covered a few other areas in a state-wide memo, and a few more with the Southern California News Group. Here’s some of the takeaways:

There appear to be different routes to play indoor sports

Indoor sports such as basketball, volleyball and wrestling remain classified in the yellow tier (minimal risk for the virus) in the state’s guidance. Most counties in the state are in the purple tier (widespread risk) but the state adjusted its rules on March 4 to allow teams, starting on March 5, to play indoor sports earlier than the yellow tier if they follow stricter, college-style testing.

But Nocetti said he believes teams also could start their seasons under that college-style testing format, and transition to a non-testing, yellow tier format once their county reaches that optimal tier. Teams also could decide to wait to play until their county reaches the yellow tier, which feature a daily case rate of less than 1 per 100,000.

“That is how we read it,” Nocetti said of the different paths. “The exact answer to that question would have to come from the CDPH.”

Wresting was scheduled to begin March 5 while basketball and boys volleyball to follow on March 12-13, respectively.

College-style testing needs more clarification

The college-style guidelines for indoor sports ask teams to to conduct either “daily antigen testingand periodic PCR testing” until their county reaches the yellow tier. The CIF State said it is seeking clarification from the CDPH on the meaning of “periodic” PCR testing.

“Does mean you have to test PCR once a week? Twice a week?” Nocetti said. “We are waiting for an answer for that.”

Nocetti believes the state will issue a “Frequently Asked Questions” section soon.

All outdoor sports are currently cleared to play

On Feb.19, all outdoor sports were allowed in counties with an adjusted case rate of 14 or less per 100,000. This applied to the high-contact sports such as football, water polo, soccer and lacrosse, plus baseball, softball and outdoor volleyball.

All of the counties in Southern California, and 54 of the 58 counties in the state, currently meet this 14 threshold.

The extra condition is that football and water polo need to test weekly if the county’s rate falls between 7 and 14.

LAWSUIT UPDATE

As expected, lawyers for two San Diego football players who won a temporary injunction against the state’s guidelines essentially dropped their lawsuit Friday because of their settlement agreement with the state Thursday over the updated guidelines released on Thursday, March 4.

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Orange County football season can start if COVID-19 stats reach new benchmark today

There will be a COVID-19 version of scoreboard watching done by a lot of Orange County high school football teams on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

What’s at stake? The green light that says they can finally start their season.

The scoreboard they’ll be watching is actually the state’s website that will post the updated COVID-19 statistics on Tuesday. If the numbers for O.C. are as good as expected, football teams will be eligible to begin conditioning immediately and could play their first game as early as March 11-13.

After months of doubts that there would be a season this year, the sudden change in scenarios was made possible Friday, Feb. 19, when the California Department of Public Health revised its high school sports guidelines. The CDPH decided that outdoor, high-contact sports like football can be played in counties that are in the purple and red tiers if the counties have a case rate at or below 14 per 100,000 people, and if the schools do weekly testing for COVID-19.

Under the previous guidelines, football could only be played in a county that reached the orange tier, which is based on a 2-4.9 percent positivity rate.

As of Friday, the state said the case rate in Orange County was 16. The data in recent days suggest that the county has a good chance to be at 14 or below when the state dashboard is updated Tuesday.

If that happens, teams could hold a conditioning workout Tuesday afternoon and would be able to begin full practices on Friday, Feb. 26, the day when the new guidelines officially kick in. Teams must have 14 practices, including three conditioning days, before playing their first game.

If a team begins its season the week of March 11-13, it could play six games before the season ends April 17, or five games if it plays its opener the week of March 18-20.

There are a few potential obstacles that could delay teams or perhaps end their season despite the new CDPH guidelines. The state’s revised plan must be approved at the county level, and by the school districts and private schools, before teams can start practicing in pads and playing games.

There are several reasons that schools might decide to skip this season, including the fear that the long layoff from team workouts will increase the risk of injuries to the players.

The new testing requirement, for teams that fall in the 14 per 100,000 case-rate category, is also a potential problem area. The state will pay for the testing — antigen or PCR — for every player and coach on a team, but it will be up to each school to conduct the testing until a county falls below a case rate of 7 per 100,000.

The testing requirement has many coaches and school athletic directors concerned. The organization and added responsibility might be too much for some schools to take on, especially on such short notice.

Schools and league representatives are expected to hold meetings this week to discuss the testing requirements.

Orange County might be the only local county to reach the new benchmark on Tuesday. Los Angeles County had a rate of 17.6 on Friday, and San Bernardino County was at 19. Ventura and Riverside counties did not have updated case rates through Friday, but both were a significant distance — 26.2 and 28.8, respectively — away as of Feb. 16.

Teams in the counties that don’t meet the new benchmarks Tuesday, will have to wait until next week to see if they make it. The state updates the online stats every Tuesday.

The CIF-SS said Friday it will be up to each school to decide how many games it will play this season, but the season will end on April 17. The CIF-SS decided not to extend its football season to May 1, although the CIF State made that an option for each section.

The CIF-SS put together breakdowns of possible schedules for teams based on when they are cleared to begin their season. Here is a look at those breakdowns:

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CIF-SS and state officials get a lot of questions about new guidelines for high school sports

The CIF Southern Section will be releasing new information to its schools on Wednesday morning, Dec. 16 that is supposed to address some of the questions that came up one day after the state rolled out its new health guidelines for youth and high school sports.

In somewhat of a surprising move, the California Department of Public Health issued its new  guidelines on Monday evening, which were seen as a mix of good news, bad news and unanswered questions by those most deeply involved in high school sports — the coaches, athletes and parents of athletes.

The most prominent question: Does this mean there will be high school sports this school year?

Gov. Gavin Newsom took a shot at answering that question Tuesday during a news conference.

“The virus will make that determination,” Newsom said, “(through) our actions, each and every individual action, the sum total of which will determine how quickly that will occur.”

In other words, the state and each county need to see a drop in their number of coronavirus cases, showing they are getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control, for the green light to go on for high school sports.

If the COVID-19 numbers stay where they’re at, maybe a handful of sports — those that don’t involve contact, such as cross country, golf, swimming, tennis and track and field — will be the only ones cleared to have a season this school year.

The new guidelines use the state’s color-coded system for a county’s COVID-19 transmission risk to determine when a sport can begin in that county. For example, Orange County would need to be in the orange tier (moderate risk of COVID-19 spread) for football and volleyball to begin their seasons.

For now, all sports in the state are on hold until Jan. 25, although conditioning workouts are still allowed. The CDPH also said it will take a look at the state’s progress toward controlling the virus on Jan. 4, and the start date could be changed, perhaps to an earlier date.

The guidelines are comprehensive (they apply to all youth sports, including club teams), and include details about practice routines and fan attendance, which vary from sport to sport.

But all of that detail led to more questions, so CIF commissioner Ron Nocetti and the commissioners of the state’s 10 sections went through the guidelines thoroughly in a teleconference Tuesday, Nocetti said, so that they could provide guidance to their member schools.

“Now I think the sections are looking at that information and putting together information to share with their member schools,” Nocetti said. “They’ll start to have conversations with their leadership about what this means for their sections moving forward.”

The CIF-SS said it will release new information to its member schools at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, but did not offer any details.

Most likely, it won’t be anything that greatly changes what is already in place.

“There were questions about things we could look at in the future,” Nocetti said of Tuesday’s discussion. “But everyone is going to proceed pretty cautiously because it says clearly in the guidance that they’re going to reassess the start date on Jan. 4.

“People are a little hesitant to do things until we see if that Jan. 25 date is going to hold.”

There was a great deal of discussion on Twitter on Tuesday about changing the sports calendar as a way to improve the chances for some sports to have a season.

Sports such as football, volleyball and water polo are in the second-most difficult tier to reach — orange — and those are all sports that are supposed to be having their seasons right now.

If the sports calendar was changed and the start dates for those sports were pushed back 2-3 months, it would give them more time to possibly reach the tier they need to be in. Right now, all of the area counties — Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino — are in the purple tier (widespread risk).

Nocetti and CIF-SS commissioner Rob Wigod have both insisted that it’s unlikely the football calendar will be changed again this year. They have cited the recommendations of health officials that football should not go beyond mid-April this school year if there are plans to begin next school year’s season in August.

The change that is more likely to happen throughout the state: The season for many sports will be shortened, with a later start date, which allows for more time to get the virus under control, and the emphasis would be on league games and perhaps a brief postseason that does not include regional or state championships.

The sports that appear to be most in danger of not having a season are in the yellow tier (minimal risk), as it is the most difficult tier to reach. Those sports are cheerleading (indoors), basketball, hockey and wrestling. (Basketball and hockey move to the orange tier if they are played outdoors, but that is usually not done at the high school level.)

Newsom insisted that he wants to see high school sports return this school year, and that state officials are committed to finding a safe way to bring them back as soon as possible.

“I’m reverential in terms of my desire (for sports to return),” he said, “for kids’ mental and physical health, for parents’ mental and physical health, to get kids playing sports again in a safe manner. So we’ve been stubborn, we’ve been working on this, lot of work behind the scenes on this.”

– BANG reporters Darren Sabedra, Michael Nowels and Nico Savidge contributed to this report. 

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Ex-Rosary basketball star Asia Avinger, now at San Diego State, suffers knee injury

The start to Asia Avinger’s promising collegiate basketball career will be delayed.

The San Diego State freshman from Rosary High announced on Tuesday, Nov. 24 that she recently suffered a torn ACL that will require surgery.

The Aztecs are scheduled to open their season Wednesday against Washington at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“A few days ago, I had a freak accident and ended up tearing my ACL completely,” Avinger wrote on her Instagram. “I know this is in God’s plan and he gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. … This is just one obstacle that I have to overcome but best believe I’ll come back stronger than ever.”

Avinger, a 5-foot-7 guard, arrived at San Diego State coming off an outstanding senior season in which she earned Register player of the year and female athlete of the year honors.

The highest-ranked recruit under eighth-year coach Stacie Terry-Hutson, Avinger was selected the preseason freshman of the year in the Mountain West Conference.

Last season, Avinger led Rosary to its second consecutive CIF State Division 1 final before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the championship game.

She averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists to earn Trinity League MVP.

San Diego State was picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West Conference behind favorite Fresno State, San Jose State and Boise State.

Avinger’s twin brother, Noah, a senior at Servite, has committed to San Diego State for football.

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Ladislav Kohn hired as hockey coach at Santa Margarita

Santa Margarita High has hired Ladislav Kohn as the head coach of its boys hockey program.

Kohn, a former NHL player who spent two seasons with the Ducks, was an assistant coach for the Eagles the past two years, including when they won their third national championship in 2019. He replaces Craig Johnson, who resigned in September.

“I am humbled and honored to be named as the new head coach for the SM Eagles,” Kohn said. “I’m looking forward to coaching this talented group of players and being a mentor to them on and off the ice.”

Kohn played for eight NHL teams during his 20 seasons as a professional player. He has been involved in California youth hockey for the past seven years.

“I am thrilled to hear that Laddy will be the next head coach of the ice hockey program,” said Johnson, who is now a consultant for Santa Margarita’s hockey program. “Laddy is a great person and coach who will continue to grow the program and be a great leader for all current and future players.”

 

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Bill Cunerty, former Saddleback College coach and high school football broadcaster, dies from Parkinson’s disease


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Former Saddleback College football and golf coach Bill Cunerty, who also became a beloved broadcaster of high school football games and a guru for future NFL quarterbacks, died Thursday, Oct. 22, from complications of Parkinson’s disease, his wife, Claudia, said.

Cunerty, 74, was diagnosed with the degenerative disorder of the central nervous system in April of 2017 and had been in hospice care for more than a year, said Claudia, his wife of 51 years and caretaker during his health battle.

“He was a strong Christian,” she said. “He knew he was going to heaven.”

Cunerty’s unique connection with Orange County sports spanned more than 40 years and showcased his array of talents and passions.

The Mission Viejo resident was a state championship-winning coach in three different sports at Saddleback College. He was the football coach at Capistrano Valley and Dana Hills high schools and served as commentator for high school sports with COX 3, a cable television affiliate that covered schools from Tustin to San Clemente.

Cunerty also was a highly-regarded private quarterback coach, former president of the Southern California Golf Association and a successful high school English teacher.

“Everything he touched turned to gold,” said longtime friend Bob Janko, who met Cunerty around 1969 at North Torrance High. “He’s just an intelligent man and very personable. He kids loved playing for him.”

Cunerty arrived at North Torrance, his alma mater, to teach and coach football, Janko said. A former football and baseball player at USC, Cunerty soon began to climb the coaching rankings.

He coached North Torrance’s football program from 1969 to 1973.

Cunerty became Dana Hills’ football coach in 1975 and Capistrano Valley’s first coach two years later.

Cunerty’s staff at Capistrano Valley, Janko said, included a trio of future coaching stars for the Cougars: Dick Enright and Eric Patton in football, and Bob Zamora, who became a legendary baseball coach.

Cunerty had his most coaching success at Saddleback College. He was a longtime quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for the Gauchos and took the head coaching reins for three seasons after the retirement of the legendary Ken Swearingen.

Cunerty led the Gauchos to an undefeated season and national title in 1996. He resigned in 1998 because of heath reasons.

Cunerty survived two battles with colon cancer and two heart attacks, Claudia said.

He also coached Saddleback College’s men’s and women’s golf teams to state titles, becoming the first community college coach in California to win state titles in three different sports. He led the men’s golf team to six state crowns.

“He loved coaching and teaching,” Claudia said of her husband, a member of the state community college hall of fame.

Cunerty, a journalism major at USC, also was a fixture at the biggest high school games as a broadcaster with COX 3. Teaming with Kevin Turner and former Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo, Cunerty was quick to praise players while mixing in his coaching insights, stories and humor.

His last broadcast was the O.C. all-star football game in the summer of 2017.

“He was a true community gem,” said Turner, who worked with Cunerty for 14 years. “We’re all blessed to have known him. He’s the most incredible ambassador of high school sports in Southern California.”

Sad news: Ex-Saddleback College football coach, QB guru, star broadcaster, fighter, and family man Bill Cunerty, left, has died
There was no better ambassador for O.C. High School Sports than Cunerty (partner Kevin Turner, right) #RIPCoachCunerty @ocvarsity @SteveFryer pic.twitter.com/v4OlItND5h

— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) October 24, 2020

The Orange County football community also knew Cunerty as a private quarterback guru.

He coached with West Coast Passing School for years and tutored many of the area’s best passers. From Todd Marinovich to Matt Barkley to his final protege, Nathan Manning, Cunerty — a former quarterback himself — helped many athletes.

“Such a great teacher,” said Tom Shine, one of Cunerty’s closest friends and a former football and golf coach at Santa Ana and Santiago Canyon colleges. “He just had that gift.”

Cunerty’s affable personalty, communication skills and knowledge also led him to become a trainer for quarterback prospects preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine. He worked with Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo — who faced off in the Super Bowl last season — and Andrew Luck, among others.

Cunerty’s presence also was highly-sought off the football field.

About 18 years ago, he officiated the wedding of Shine’s daughter, Jamie, to her husband Rick. Cunerty completed training to fulfill the role, Shine said.

“And he was awesome,” Shine said, “just like he did everything else.”

Cunerty is survived by his wife, daughter Kelly, son-in-law Cameron, daughter Shannon, son-in-law Ben, three grandchildren and sister Patty. Funeral arrangements have not been announced, but Claudia said the family plans to stream the memorial live.

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Magnolia High selects Thavis Miller as new football coach

Thavis Miller credits the lessons he learned playing football for helping him succeed as a father, husband and coach.

Now, he’s ready to pass on those teachings to Magnolia High.

The father of six and former collegiate assistant has been has hired as the Sentinels’ football coach, he said on Thursday, Sept. 24. It’s Miller’s first head coaching position.

“It’s about giving back,” he said.

Miller, a walk-on who also works as a job coach in Los Alamitos High’s adult transition program, replaces three-year coach Desmond Hernandez, now an assistant and full-time physical education teacher at Portola.

Hernandez was not a full-time teacher at Magnolia — he served as substitute teacher.

Miller was a defensive line coach the University La Verne from 2017-18. Before that, he served as an assistant at Cerritos College.

He has been an assistant high school coach in Iowa and North Dakota, rising to defensive coordinator at Boone (Iowa) and North (North Dakota), respectively.

Miller was an all-state high school football player at Wilcox in Georgia and became an all-conference defensive lineman at Iowa Wesleyan.

He also played two years for Milwaukee in the Arena Football League.

Miller is married to former Pacifica star softball player Brittany Weil, now an assistant at Loyola Marymount.

The couple has six children, including standout high school athletes Zatyvion (Los Alamitos/Cerritos College football), Lataviah (Buena Park basketball) and Tajavis (Servite basketball).

Tajavis, a junior point guard, holds offers from Washington State, LMU, San Diego and Pepperdine.

Zatyvion was the Sunset League’s defensive lineman of the year last season. Lataviah, a senior, averaged about 17 points and 11 rebounds last season.

In 2019, Magnolia won seven games on the field (one victory was forfeited for an ineligible player) after winning a combined three games its first two seasons under Hernandez.

Miller said he will focus on the character development of his players. He also aims to build off the success Hernandez experienced last season and take “the next step.”

“The challenge is something I felt I’m up for,” he said.

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