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Fort Vancouver football to leave Class 3A Greater St. Helens League

Starting with the 2019 season, the Trappers will play an independent schedule

VANCOUVER — Beginning with the 2019 high school football season, the Fort Vancouver Trappers will leave the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League to compete as an independent program.

Fort Vancouver officials have received approval from both the Greater St. Helens League and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. In a press release emailed to ClarkCountyToday.com Tuesday, Vancouver School District officials indicated the move was designed to help the Trappers rebuild their struggling program.

In 2018, former National Football League standout Neil Lomax became the fifth head football coach at Fort Vancouver High School in the past seven years. Next season, the Trappers will leave the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League to play an independent schedule. Photo by Mike Schultz
In 2018, former National Football League standout Neil Lomax became the fifth head football coach at Fort Vancouver High School in the past seven years. Next season, the Trappers will leave the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League to play an independent schedule. Photo by Mike Schultz

Independent status will allow the Fort football coaches to build their program by competing against similar-ranked opponents in the regional area,’’ read the statement. “This re-classification provides several benefits for Fort’s football program and team members.’’

The Trappers have gone winless in each of the past two seasons. In 2017, their nine losses included six by shutout. This past season, Fort Vancouver lost its nine games by an average of 39 points a game.

The reasons for the move included concern for the health and safety of the players.

“Currently, Fort Vancouver High School’s football program has a low participation rate,’’ read Tuesday’s press release. “Therefore, Fort has only one sub-varsity team made up of mostly freshman with limited playing experience. Many of the 3A opponent teams are made up of sophomores and juniors who physically outmatch the younger, less experienced Fort players. In addition, because of their low turnout, Fort’s team members often play the entire game, causing fatigue and making them susceptible to injury.’’

This past season, the first under coach Neil Lomax, only eight seniors made it through the entire season for the Trappers. Lomax was the fifth coach to guide in the Fort Vancouver program in the past seven years.

Another reason listed for the move was competitive equity.

“The goal for Fort Vancouver’s football program is to provide a safe and competitive environment in which young players will develop not only as athletes, but also grow as teammates,’’ read the press release. “As the program becomes more competitive, more players are likely to turn out and continue in the program throughout high school.’’

The Vancouver School District officials cited a previous move by Hudson’s Bay as a blueprint for this decision.

“Hudson’s Bay High School’s football program is one example of success using this strategy,’’ stated the release. “The team went to 2A for two years and played selected non-league opponents. As Bay’s player numbers grew, the team returned to 3A where it has been competitive for the past three seasons.’’

It is not known how long the rebuild is expected to take or when Fort Vancouver might return to Greater St. Helens League status.

“The Fort football coaches expect to play independent status long enough to build a program that will draw new players, develop the skills of returning players and provide a rewarding competitive experience for all of its athletes,’’ read the statement. “As stated in the WIAA core principles, participation in a safe and fair athletic program will help team members strengthen character, build confidence and maximize potential through sportsmanship, leadership and service.’’

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About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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