Football Focus: Remembering the origin of the McKenzie Stadium doubleheaders

Two games for the price of one is now a tradition at McKenzie Stadium

The plan was met with skepticism. 

The 2008 high school football schedule came out and there were too many games scheduled for McKenzie Stadium … or so it seemed.

Nope. The schedule was correct. It would just take some getting used to by traditionalists.

The Union Titans took down the Mountain View Thunder on Friday at McKenzie Stadium in the second game of the stadium’s doubleheader. Two games on Friday is the norm, but it wasn’t always that way. Photo by Paul Valencia
The Union Titans took down the Mountain View Thunder on Friday at McKenzie Stadium in the second game of the stadium’s doubleheader. Two games on Friday is the norm, but it wasn’t always that way. Photo by Paul Valencia

Now, 13 years later, the doubleheader at McKenzie Stadium is the norm. Eight of the nine regular-season weeks this season have two games on the slate. There is a 4:30 p.m. game, followed by what is called a 7 p.m. game but oftentimes starts after 7 p.m.

That second game starts when it starts. 

On Friday, it was the Mountain View-Union game that got that late start. Earlier, it was Evergreen vs. Washougal in the 4:30 p.m. game

As soon as Evergreen fans left, the students for the home team of the second game, Union, filled in the section. They were all decked out in red, loud and proud.

On the other side of the stadium, the Thunder faithful. 

Two Evergreen Public School football teams playing each other at McKenzie Stadium, with their fans rocking and rolling.

Mike Colvin, the voice of the Union Titans who performs public address duties for Union home games, is in his 25th year working games at the stadium. He was the voice of Evergreen prior to the opening of Union. Oh, and in the spring season of 2021, Colvin did announcements for Union, Evergreen, and, for the first time, the Mountain View Thunder.

High above the stadium in the press box, he can feel it come alive. And, he said, every week is different, depending on what the early game does.

“Does it go late? Does it go into overtime? Is it a running clock?” Colvin asked. “That first game, there is a pause as everyone comes into the stadium by the beginning of the second quarter. The 7 o’clock game transitions, and it’s a full house. If it’s a big game, like Camas-Union or Evergreen-Mountain View, you’ve got a packed house on both sides.”

Again, two games on the same night was not a popular move when it was first revealed.

The McKenzie Stadium scoreboard has logos from the four high schools that call the stadium home: Evergreen, Mountain View, Heritage, and Union. Photo by Paul Valencia
The McKenzie Stadium scoreboard has logos from the four high schools that call the stadium home: Evergreen, Mountain View, Heritage, and Union. Photo by Paul Valencia

The decision to have doubleheaders at the stadium came one season after McKenzie became the home of four high schools. Union opened its doors in the fall of 2007. That football season, there were home games scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, at times, as Union joined Mountain View, Evergreen, and Heritage.

Why not just keep it that way? 

Follow the money.

“It was a financial decision because gates on Thursday nights or Saturdays are significantly less than a Friday night gate,” said Cale Piland, who at the time was the athletic director and football coach at Union and now is the AD for all Evergreen Public Schools.

Numbers don’t lie. High school football is a must-see Friday event, and while there are exceptions, Thursday night regular-season games or Saturday afternoon or evening games do not compare.

For the most part, the late games on Friday draw more than the early games. But the two home teams split the gate. ADs also try to come up with a schedule that balances how many early games and late games a program has throughout the season.

“It was kind of funny, when we first started doing this, everybody wanted the late game,” Piland said. “The longer we did it, you realize, ‘Hey, the 4:30 game isn’t so bad.’”

Coaches figured out they could be home early or go to another game to scout.

As far as the players, that was an easy sell.

“When you think about it, in middle school, a 4:30 game isn’t weird,” Piland said, noting varsity players were used to playing late-afternoon games when they were younger. “Our freshmen games are at that time. Some JV games were at that time, too. It’s not a radical thing for the players. Kids adjusted to (the McKenzie doubleheaders) way easier than the adults adjusted to it.”

Football fans, Piland acknowledged, would still prefer their teams only played at 7 p.m.

Union was the home team for Friday’s night’s second game of the doubleheader, and students packed their section, all wearing red. Photo by Paul Valencia
Union was the home team for Friday’s night’s second game of the doubleheader, and students packed their section, all wearing red. Photo by Paul Valencia

Kiggins Bowl also has doubleheaders. Kiggins has been the home stadium for Skyview, Hudson’s Bay, and Fort Vancouver in Vancouver Public Schools. Sometimes Columbia River, too. Usually, just three schools, though, so Kiggins does not normally have as many doubleheaders as McKenzie Stadium throughout a season. 

There are pros and cons to logistics associated with two games at McKenzie Stadium. There is plenty of parking. However, the lower parking lot is usually full before fans arrive. Employees who drive school buses are not yet finished with their shifts before late-afternoon fans arrive. 

Then there is that mad rush of fans leaving after the early game while other fans drive into the parking lots to arrive for the late game.

But again, it is something all the regulars have grown accustomed to dealing with through the years.

Oh, and one more benefit: One paid ticket is good for both games.

Piland played at McKenzie as a Mountain View student, led Evergreen to a state championship as the head coach in 2004, and brought Union to a state championship game.

“Countless memories here. This will always be a special facility,” Pilanddd said. “In my mind, it’s one of the marquee facilities in the state for high school football.”

In fact, the state agrees. McKenzie Stadium has hosted the state semifinals three times since 2016. All three times, it was a doubleheader.

That is just the norm nowadays at McKenzie Stadium. A tradition, if you will.

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