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COVID-19 forces Douglas HS soccer players to transfer to Sunnyside

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TUCSON - The Sunnyside High School boys soccer team continues to be ranked among not only the best in the Old Pueblo but, all of Arizona.

The Blue Devils have gotten hat much better this season, thanks to the addition of four players from the Douglas, Ariz. and the Agua Prieta, Sonora border region.

Because of COVID-19 concerns, the Douglas Unified School District was forced to suspend its sports. However, players from Douglas High School who didn't want to lose out on a year of competition, have now transferred an over two-hour drive away to Sunnyside High School in Tucson.

Senior Kiki Escalante, who played for Douglas High School's varsity boys soccer team since his freshman season, says he's excited at the chance to plan in another state title game (this time, instead of with Douglas High School, it'd be with Sunnyside).

"It was a challenge," said Escalante, "I honestly wanted to play my senior year in Douglas."

However, with the cancellation of sports due to coronavirus at his Cochise County school, Sunnyside was the best option.

"Even though it isn't with Douglas I would like the feeling to know how it feels to win a championship," said Escalante. "I want to win a state championship with this team. It doesn't matter who it is as long as I win it."

Escalante is living with his grandmother on Tucson's south side, near Sunnyside High School, and his Douglas High teammate, Miguel Sosa, does the same.

"Kiki's grandmother gave me the opportunity to stay with them," said Sosa. "It was pretty awesome, and while the season lasts I'll be staying with them."

Two other former Douglas High players, Oscar Valenzuela and Adrian Arciniega, also recently joined the Blue Devils, something coach Casey O'Brien welcomes.

"Beyond what they are as soccer players, they're good kids," said Coach O'Brien, "every single one of them is really respectful and responsible. They've been showing up every day working hard."

O'Brien added, "You see how much this means to them, their senior year, this experience, I think it kind of bleeds into the other kids on the team."

Despite their new Blue Devil affiliation, one thing still remains the same for these Douglas players: "Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog," said Escalante.

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Paul Cicala

Paul Cicala is a 2-time winner of the prestigious”Edward R. Murrow Award” for his reporting/anchoring in news & sports. Paul Cicala has also been nominated for multiple EMMY’s. Cicala has won the “Best Sportscaster” category in Tucson the last five years (voted on by readers of “Tucson Weekly”). Cicala is a native Tucsonan who specialized in border stories during his earlier career as a news reporter in this market, and now concentrates mainly on sports stories (with an occasional special report and/or feature story on life in Tucson & the Sonoran Desert).

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