High school football, other sports get the OK to play in Southwest Washington

Region moves into Phase 2, opening the door for the return of more high school sports

It is high school football season. 

And volleyball. And girls soccer. And slowpitch softball, too.

Camas coach Jon Eagle hoists the state championship trophy after the Papermakers won it all in December 2019. Football season is back after a long offseason. The 4A and 3A GSHL will start playing Feb. 26. Photo by Mike Schultz
Camas coach Jon Eagle hoists the state championship trophy after the Papermakers won it all in December 2019. Football season is back after a long offseason. The 4A and 3A GSHL will start playing Feb. 26. Photo by Mike Schultz

The governor announced Thursday afternoon that the Southwest Washington region will move into Phase 2 of the state’s roadmap to recovery, giving the green light for high- and moderate-risk sports to begin competition.

Small schools from Clark County will be playing football as early as next week. 

The bigger schools in the county will start playing on Feb. 26. All teams have been practicing since Feb. 1.

There are different plans for the leagues going forward as athletic administrators try to figure out sports schedules for the remainder of the academic year.

The 4A and 3A programs will continue with this fall sports schedule — which includes cross country, boys golf, and boys tennis — through April 3. After spring break, the big schools will begin a winter/spring season, with schools offering both seasons at the same time to round out the school year.

The 2A and 1A programs, however, will stick to the WIAA three-season format. Fall sports now, followed by spring sports, then winter sports.

Here are the plans for the rest of this fall season, as well as the rest of the athletic school year.

Class 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League fall

Slowpitch softball will start as early as next week. Girls soccer and volleyball are slated to start competition the week of Feb. 22. 

The first football games for the two leagues will be Feb. 26. There are as many as seven games on the schedule for some teams. Because there is an odd number of teams, there will be teams with only six games on the schedule.

Also, to get to seven games, there will be a scenario when football games will be played Thursday-Tuesday-Saturday — three games in 10 days.

The “fall” sports season will end April 2 or 3.

“Our goal is to get as many games as possible,” said Rory Oster, the athletic director at Camas and the president of the 4A and 3A GSHL. “There is going to be soccer playing back to back when they have never played back to back before. It’s not normal, but we’re going to do the best we can for kids.”

Schedules will be released soon.

Class 2A Greater St. Helens League fall

The 2A GSHL will not be wasting any time. 

Volleyball and girls soccer will be playing as early as Tuesday.

“Our teams have all been practicing. Everything’s a go,” said Gary McGarvie, the athletic director at Washougal and the president of the 2A GSHL. “Our kids are ready and willing. They want to play. The first chance we get, we’re going to have them play.”

Football in the nine-team 2A GSHL will start Feb. 19 or 20, McGarvie said. The winter storm this week led to the cancellation of practices, which means the league might push Friday night lights to Saturday. But the plan right now, McGarvie emphasized, is football is next week.

“We’re ready to roll.”

Trico League fall

Just like the 2A GSHL, the Class 1A teams in the Trico League will be playing next week with girls soccer, volleyball and cross country.

And yes, Week 1 of football is Feb. 19-20 in the Trico League, according to Matt Cooke, athletic director at La Center. 

Fans at football games

Depends on the league.

The state’s guidelines call for a maximum of 200 people at a sporting event, but that includes the participants. 

Calling it heartbreaking, Oster said of fans at 4A and 3A GSHL football games: “Right now, no spectators.”

He is hoping that changes, though.

“By the time you have rosters, coaches, game personnel, officials, all the stuff that goes into a football game, you might have 30 seats left. How are you going to choose who gets those 30 seats? No fair way to do that.”

The plan is to have every game streamed over the internet, Oster said.

He also hopes the guidelines will change. He noted that in other states, the maximum number, whether it is 200 or 250, did not include the players and coaches. If that becomes the case in Washington, he could see some fans at games.

“We could roll with that. We could manage that,” Oster said. “But the 200 total really handcuffs us.”

It is easier to allow for fans at smaller schools, because, in general, those programs have fewer players and coaches.

The 2A GSHL has discussed options for fans but McGarvie said nothing has been decided just yet. The league is expected to announce its spectator policy soon.

The Trico League has a preliminary plan to allow for parents of seniors to attend home games for the first game, Cooke said. From there, administrators can look at the numbers to determine if parents of juniors can attend the next home game.

The plan is for the visiting school to provide the number of people coming to the game by noon the day prior to the game, Cooke said. Then the home school could determine how many fans would be allowed.

4A/3A GSHL extended plan

This week, administrators voted to implement a two-season plan rather than use the WIAA’s three-season plan.

That means after Spring Break, spring and winter sports will be offered in the 4A and 3A GSHLs.

Oster said there is no easy solution to this after a year of cancelled sports seasons. But the ADs agreed they wanted to protect as much of the spring sports season as possible because spring sports lost its season last academic year, as well.

Oster polled his coaches and asked multi-sport athletes to give their opinion.

“If you could play both sports in shortened mini seasons, or one sport, with a full-on season, what would you choose?” 

Oster said most said they would rather have a full season.

Also, even in Phase 2, the ADs do not yet have full clarification that indoor, winter sports such as basketball or wrestling, can be played.

“We’re not going to put off or short the spring season to get something done in winter sports when we don’t know if they will exist,” he said.

He said he understands some athletes will have to make tough decisions. Still, at the bigger schools, it is an option that is available. There are enough athletes to fill positions in all sports.

“We were just trying to do the best we could for a majority of kids,” Oster said. “We’re offering a spring season because we want to make sure we get them a full season. We want to give winter sport athletes a chance to perform if we get to that point.

“We’re giving an opportunity for every kid to participate,” he added. “Some might have to choose one way or the other, but they get that choice. We’re just hoping it works out.”

2A GSHL extended plan

The 2A GSHL ADs are meeting soon to finalize the plan, but McGarvie said for now, the 2A GSHL will stick to the three-season model. Spring sports will follow the current fall sports schedule, with winter sports wrapping up the academic year.

“We have a lot of multisport athletes. We don’t want kids to have to choose,” McGarvie said. “It’s not like we’re going out to try to win state championships. The whole point is to bring back kids playing the sports they love.”

Trico League extended plan

While small schools might have an advantage in allowing fans to attend football games, it does not allow them the luxury of offering two seasons at the same time.

Cooke said the Trico League will stick with the three-season system.

“I don’t want a kid to choose between a winter sport and a spring sport,” Cooke said.

Doing so would have a drastic impact on a program. Cooke heard from a coach at another school that said his team might not be able to field a squad if his athletes had to choose.

“It could kill a program,” Cooke said. “We’re not interested in overlapping seasons.”