Prep football teams make best of situation after being forced indoors

Officials consider moving Friday games to Saturday

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer



How do you make the best of a tough situation?

Every high school football team in Clark County is in this same boat.

Wednesday marked the second day district administrators cancelled outdoor activities because of poor air quality caused by the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge. And for many high school football teams, game-week preparations have been indoor-only all week mandated by their school districts.

The smoke could impact Friday’s schedule of games.

Washougal coach Dave Hajek said a decision on whether the Panthers’ home game Friday against 1A Castle Rock will remain at Fishback Stadium or be moved to Castle Rock will be decided by Thursday afternoon.

Vancouver and Evergreen districts also are considering contingency plans. Cale Piland, athletic director of Evergreen Public Schools, said preliminary conversations started on possibly moving Friday’s football games at McKenzie Stadium — Heritage vs. Evergreen and Mountain View vs. Union — to Saturday.

Vancouver Public Schools AD Albert Alcantar said one of the main topics at Thursday’s ADs meeting will be whether to keep all Friday games — Tumwater at Columbia River, Hudson’s Bay at Rochester, and the Kiggins Bowl doubleheader of The Dalles-Fort Vancouver and Eastside Catholic-Skyview — as scheduled or shift them to Saturday.

The Columbian visited three area teams Wednesday, two of which spent their third day indoors.

Washougal, 12-2 p.m.

The school year begins Thursday in Washougal, and the main and auxiliary gymnasiums has seen the most usage from the Panthers’ football team the past three days.

The Panthers, dressed in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts, ended their practice Wednesday with baseline-to-baseline sprints as part of conditioning.

Focus has remained strong all week, senior Kade Coons said. Intensity and effort still is top notch.

“Except you don’t get to hit,” he said.

It’s been an extra emotional week for the Panthers. They’re coming off a 54-0 season-opening victory over West Seattle last Friday and over the past 48 hours, had a handful of players and their families receive Level 2 (be ready to go) evacuation notices prompted by the Eagle Creek Fire.

“It’s on everyone’s mind,” coach Dave Hajek said. “(The fire) not that far away.”

Columbia River, 3-5 p.m.

The Columbia River Chieftains were happy to be in their school’s small auxiliary gymnasium.


It’s true. It felt luxurious compared to the theater or cramped classrooms the Chieftains spent time in the previous two days.

“This is nice,” senior lineman Beau Braden said. “Better than a dimly-light, muggy classroom.”

Wednesday was the third indoor-only practice for River, along with Skyview, Fort Vancouver, and Hudson’s Bay. Poor air quality forced Vancouver Public Schools administrators to keep all teams from practicing outdoors since Monday.

Like all teams, River was no exception about making the best out of a tough situation. While they may not be able to be in pads or take hits indoors, they’ve spent quite a bit of time reviewing film on their opponent: third-ranked Tumwater.

Columbia River has been outscored 165-20 the past three meetings (0-3) against Tumwater.

“It’s big for us to be in the film room,” Braden said. “It’s a team that we’ve gotten beat up on.”

Heritage, 5:30-8 p.m.

The last time Heritage coach Matt Gracey was forced inside to coach a football practice, it was because of Arizona dust storms.

A rare occurrence, but it happened.

“Not often,” he said.

For a second straight day, the Timberwolves, joining Evergreen, Mountain View and Union, had an indoor-only practice. Monday, the Evergreen district schools practiced outdoors.

Gracey credited Heritage volleyball coach Courtney Wallenborn’s flexibility on sharing the school’s only gym, and what Gracey missed most about not having outdoor practices Tuesday and Wednesday is hardly working on any special teams.

“There’s no room,” he said.

That’s why he and other coaches hope for a break in the air quality so teams can head outside Thursday. For Gracey, he already knows what he’ll spend on Thursday’s practice if it’s outdoors.

“We’ll spent 45 minutes on special teams,” he said. “You can lose a game on special teams if you’re not careful.”