We often joke that religion in the Gila Valley isn’t found in area churches, it’s found on the area’s high school football fields.

A few years ago, we decided to focus our sports coverage away from high school sports and on adult-oriented activities, such as crossfit, hunting and hiking, because our readership is primarily (though not exclusively) active adults.

After less than two weeks, we were almost lynched by those active adults for not having game scores in the paper, and we learned our lesson.

Families here in the Gila Valley have three or four generations that have played for the same school, so, of course, loyalty runs deep.

We were reminded of just how much people care about out local high school teams when Thatcher High School football and cheer decided to conduct an auction to help pay for the teams’ needs in the upcoming season.

The biggest need is paying for travel expenses. A single away game — where the teams travel to and from the game on the same day — can cost the school upward of $500. If the game is too far away, as can happen during the playoffs, overnight accommodations drive those costs significantly higher.

The Thatcher High School Booster Club’s having to hold an auction shows just how difficult it is to provide a good public education for our children. While our communities were always willing to help, when we were young, our schools factored in sports and academic team travel expenses to the annual budget.

Today, there isn’t an extra penny to be found, and the Legislature keeps trying to find new and creative ways to take money away from public schools while claiming to overfund education.

Just ask any teacher how much he or she pays out of his or her own pocket for classroom necessities to learn just how underfunded school districts are.

The THS Booster Club raised almost $27,000 from the live auction, and the silent auction was expected to bring in another $8,000. That’s money all the schools’ teams will need throughout the school year, but especially the football team.

While track and wrestling can have as many or more players than football, the costs for equipment for those sports pales in comparison to football.

Plus, the football team is seeking a fourth state championship in a row. We’re fairly certain the school district and Booster Club want to make sure the team is focused on the game plan and not worried about a bus breaking down by the side of the road on the way to a game.

Kudos to Thatcher boosters for stepping up and helping all the Eagles sports teams — that’s real 12th-man stuff right there.

Now if we could just convince legislators to do the same thing for all of the state’s schools, to simply do their job and properly fund education.

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