King’s Way Christian is putting high school football on pause for the near future.
Officials at the private Vancouver school said Monday it won’t field a high school football team at the varsity level until 2023 while it reinvests in its in-school youth program “so we can have a program that has a pathway to build numbers,” athletic director Brad Butterworth said.
Butterworth said the Knights expect to resume a junior-varsity schedule in 2022 with a full varsity team starting in the 2023-24 school year.
“Right now,” Butterworth said, “we just don’t have the numbers. … We’re trying to find the best path forward, so that King’s Way can use football to pursue our mission.”
The loss of King’s Way Christian’s program leaves the current 1A Trico League with four schools in football this season — Castle Rock, Columbia-White Salmon, Seton Catholic and La Center. Stevenson is reclassified to Class 2B. Fort Vancouver will play a Trico schedule as an independent.
Last fall, the high school Knights went 5-5 overall and reached the state preliminary round with a roster of 25, including six seniors, according to its 2019 roster. Player graduations and recent transfers to local public schools dwindled numbers further. This season, the Knights were expected to have around 14-15 players, Butterworth said. One returning player, incoming senior Bailey Meek, told The Columbian on Monday he now plans to play at 2A Ridgefield, his home-boundary school. Meek is a three-star recruit at defensive end and holds 13 Division I football offers.
Butterworth said school officials recently took a deep-dive into how it can improve its football program. That included consulting with numerous out-of-state schools with similar enrollment, tuition dollars, and program success to help determine its future. He added the school plans to work with the local Catholic Youth Organization to increase participation numbers for middle school football programs. The school offers middle school football to seventh and eighth graders.
Two years ago, Butterworth said, King’s Way had 20 seventh and eighth graders play football, yet only two turned out for the high school team.
“We’re not replenishing at the rate we’re losing,” Butterworth said. “We need to be paving the road for the next 10 years, not the next 100 days.”
The athletic director added the school is seeking out a new football coach who eventually will become the Knights’ varsity coach. Butterworth acknowledged the challenges ahead, but knows it’s what’s right for the program and King’s Way Christian.
“This is going to be tough,” Butterworth said, “but it’s doable and people have done it. “We’ve seeked out the people who’ve done it before and we feel we’re making the right decisions here.”