VANCOUVER — Four members of the 2016 Hudson’s Bay High School football team are getting one final game together in the summer of 2017.
That would be one more week to share in this experience, one more opportunity to soak in a winning feeling.
And, of course, one more chance for Bay fans to say thank you to them, for all that they did for a struggling program.
“It taught me how to win. It taught me how to lose. It taught me how to become a man,” said Jordan Hickman, the quarterback of the Eagles last fall, referring to his years with the Eagles.
Hickman will play along with Hudson’s Bay linemen Casey Wishon, Sergio Vega-McBride, and Jared Bacon at Saturday night’s Freedom Bowl Classic. The all-star football game, featuring recent graduates from Southwest Washington high schools, raises funds for Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Kickoff for the high school game is 7:30 p.m., after two Clark County Youth Football games are played earlier in the day as a part of a football showcase.
For the four Eagles, sure, they had to endure several losses in their careers, but they got to go out as winners, leading Bay to a 5-4 record last fall. It was the first winning season for the program since 2002.
That means these are the first four Eagles to play in the Freedom Bowl Classic coming off a winning season since the first Freedom Bowl.
The 2002 Eagles went 5-4, and the first all-star football game was the summer of 2003.
Fourteen years later, the 2016 Eagles went 5-4, setting up one more night to take it all in.
“For me, it was amazing,” said Vega-McBride, adding that he knows he was part of something special, part of turning around the program. “It’s the new Bay, and we’re here to win.”
Saturday at McKenzie Stadium 2 and 4 p.m.: Clark County Youth Football all-star games 7:30 p.m.: Varsity all-star game Tickets: $10 More information: Freedombowlclassic.org
2017 Freedom Bowl Classic
Saturday at McKenzie Stadium
2 and 4 p.m.: Clark County Youth Football all-star games
7:30 p.m.: Varsity all-star game
More information: Freedombowlclassic.org
Hickman, Wishon, and Vega-McBride were on varsity for the past three seasons. Bacon was a four-year varsity player. He went through two 1-8 seasons and then a 2-7 campaign before the Eagles broke through in 2016.
“It shows the younger guys that if you put in the work … it finally pays off,” Bacon said.
Wishon is proud of the record, too, but he is still hurting from how the season ended for the Eagles. Hudson’s Bay finished in a three-way tie for the final playoff berth but lost in a tiebreaker.
“I felt we had something left to prove,” he said.
Nothing can change the past, but Wishon and the Eagles are thrilled to get one more game to play, to represent Bay.
“Not a day goes by I don’t miss it,” Bacon said of playing football. “This last opportunity means the world.”
It also is a chance to give back. The game is, after all, a charity fundraiser.
These Eagles took part, in one way or another, with another fundraiser during the school year. The Mr. Hudson’s Bay event raised money for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
Earlier this week, Freedom Bowl Classic players got to visit the Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland.
“If we can play football to make a difference, I’m all for it,” Hickman said.
Wishon said he hopes word gets out that this game is for children in need. In recent years, turnout for the Freedom Bowl Classic has been down. Wishon said if all the players knew what it was for, there would be more athletes on each team.
The Eagles of the 2017 Freedom Bowl all want the game to continue in the future. For charity, of course, but also for players such as themselves, looking for one more game to celebrate their final season of high school football.