It’s been said controversy often times builds character and shows us who we truly are.
All those who have supported the Douglas Bulldogs all season were upset by last week’s forfeiture of the six wins by the Arizona Interscholastic Association and with good reason. The community wants and deserves answers as to who is responsible and what led to these rules violations. But we also understand investigations take time and are not solved overnight. It’s extremely unfortunate our team of young players has to suffer the consequences when their fate was placed in the hands of one or two adults who dropped the proverbial ball either intentionally or by mistake.
The Bulldogs’ 6-2 record prior to the forfeitures had them ranked 21st in the state, five spots behind the last state playoff berth slot. It would have been a long shot for them to make the playoffs as their next games were against two of the bottom three 4A teams. It’s doubtful any percentage points picked up from those wins would suffice to include them in the playoffs as one of the top 16 teams.
Nevertheless, it’s a respectable record. The players know that and told us that they recognize what they accomplished on and off the field this season. For example, they won The Pick game against rival Bisbee (which also was forfeited) and they know the work that went into winning the other games. They are disappointed that their record has been "adjusted" by the AIA but it does not take away any of that. Whoever sullied their season has to live with that. The players’ conscience is clear.
The support shown by our community towards our Bulldogs as they left Douglas Friday for their game in Tucson was palpable. It was purportedly the largest road crowd this season who came out to support the team as they pummeled Palo Verde that night, 48-3. That wide margin surely was a clear message of appreciation to the community, but also an “in-your-face” retort to those in authority who mishandled the AIA responsibilities.
Like any other, the community of Douglas has inherently sustained its share of black eyes over the years. But what has also been clear over the years is that when the chips are down this community unites. The support these kids, the team and the high school receives from their families, friends and fans, is above par.
From what we know, Coach James Fitzgerald has not been implicated in the investigation. That is a good thing. By all appearances he has done and incredible job with this team not only as it relates to the fundamentals of football, but where it matters most; their character as respectable, polite young men of integrity. We would definitely like to see him return next year and continue building on what he has started.
In the meantime, he and his team can take comfort in the support of the community and our anticipation of good things that are ahead for the Douglas High School football program.