Freedom Classic gives one final shot at the thrill of victory

Skyview's Hayden Schuh also knew the agony of defeat

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Freedom Bowl Classic

What: High school football all-star game for recently graduated seniors from local schools.

When/where: 7:30 p.m. today at Kiggins Bowl.

Tickets: $8; children 6 and under get in free.

Hayden Schuh walked off the field in defeat, a loss in the championship game of his senior season. A fantastic run he had with his Skyview teammates, but a victory short of the title.

Hayden Schuh ran around the field in celebration, a win in the championship game of his senior season. An improbable run with his Skyview teammates, capped with an unlikely state title.

Yeah, Schuh experienced both the highs and lows of a championship game in his final year of high school competition. The Skyview Storm finished second in the state in his favorite sport, football, in December. Then he captained the Skyview soccer team to a state championship in the spring.

"It was the perfect end to an amazing senior year," Schuh said. "It almost still feels surreal."

While it is not even close to the same deal as playing in the Tacoma Dome for a state championship, Schuh is getting one more chance to win in a final high school football game. He is one of the West All-Stars in tonight's Freedom Bowl Classic.

The game will give Schuh another opportunity to add to his list of accomplishments.

"I made so many memories along the way. It was just amazing," Schuh said. "It was special doing this with all my friends. It was a brotherhood. It was a shame we lost (in football). We made up for it in soccer."

The football experience helped the soccer team.

The football Storm always expected to be in the championship game. They believed, from the first day of practice, that they were one of the best teams in the state, capable of winning it all.

That attitude was not present with the soccer team. The Class 4A Greater St. Helens League is not known as a soccer power, and Skyview did not even win the league.

"Honestly, at the beginning of the year, we didn't know what we were destined to do," Schuh said of his soccer partners. "We didn't even know if this was going to happen. Playoffs came around, and things started clicking."

One of the things was Schuh. As captain, he took it upon himself to describe the emotions of a long playoff run. He gave the pre-game speeches. He had been there before in football and wanted to share the triumphs with his soccer teammates, too.

"It was pretty cool to get my boys fired up," Schuh said.

The Storm kept winning. At the championship game, Schuh said he sensed that Skyview's opponent, Central Kitsap, figured the title was a done deal.

"They felt like they had already won the game before stepping on the field," Schuh recalled.

He told his teammates about the awful feeling of losing in a championship game. The regrets. The what-could-I-have-done-differently questions that haunt an athlete after a tough loss. Schuh had an interception in that football title game, yet nothing made losing feel any better.

"I wasn't about to lose two state championships," he said.

The Storm never trailed and prevailed 3-2.

As a soccer star, Schuh was a natural as a kicker for the Skyview football team. But he was more than a kicker. He was a starting linebacker and also played tight end. He was a football player, not a specialist.

In today's Freedom Bowl, he expects to be playing linebacker and kicking. In college, he hopes to just kick. He is going to the University of Washington, where he hopes to be a walk-on with the Huskies.

As successful as he is in soccer, football is his true love.

"The brotherhood and the friendships. Honestly, I like the contact, too. They wouldn't let me hit anyone in soccer," he said.

Schuh appreciates this one final high school game. If he does make it at UW as a kicker, he likely will not see much contact. He will get some hits in his final game as a linebacker.

He also wanted to remind folks that this game is not for him, nor his teammates, but for the patients at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland -- the children the teams visited mid-week.

"That tour was pretty awesome, to see what they can do for the kids," Schuh said. "I found that amazing. This is one last game to put the pads on, but it's really about the kids."

For Schuh, it also is one last high school football game. He lost in his previous football outing, and a champion never likes to lose.