A Montesano football player goes up for a catch during the school’s activity and conditioning program on Tuesday at Jack Rottle Field in Montesano.

RYAN SPARKS | THE DAILY WORLD A Montesano football player goes up for a catch during the school’s activity and conditioning program on Tuesday at Jack Rottle Field in Montesano.

Local teams hopeful for prep football season

While there is still a significant level of uncertainty surrounding the future, high schools across the Twin Harbors have begun preparations for a prep football season in 2021.

With the first day of official practice set for Feb. 1, teams around the Harbor are doing what they can to best prepare for what figures to be the oddest season in local prep football history. The season is scheduled to last for seven weeks, with team’s playing in their own COVID-based region and it will not have any traditional postseason tournaments.

Thus far, multiple athletic directors from local schools have confirmed that the 2A Evergreen, 1A Evergreen and 2B Pacific leagues are planning on completing a prep football season from Feb. 1 through March 20, barring any further mandates from local and state officials.

Both Grays Harbor and Pacific counties are in the West Region — which also includes Thurston and Lewis counties — and is one of just three of the state’s eight regions meeting three of four metrics needed to be placed into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Roadmap to Recovery plan, the phase required before high school football can compete. The only metric the region has not met as of Monday was the trend in 14-day rate of new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 of the population. The region is currently at minus-7% (flattening) of the metric and needs to reach minus-10% to be considered for Phase 2 status.

The mindset of local coaches is they are preparing for a season with the hope that the region will be in Phase 2 by Feb. 1.

“We are one category away from being able to practice today,” said Aberdeen head coach Todd Bridge, explaining that while other low- and moderate-risk sports have begun practicing, high-risk sports such as football are unable to until Phase 2 is reached. “I told the players and coaches that we need to be ready at a minute’s notice. We are kind of like minutemen. You just never know. It’s exciting, no doubt.”

Aberdeen Athletic Director John Crabb confirmed the Bobcats, as well as the 2A Evergreen League, is “moving forward as if a (football) season is going to happen.”

Crabb also confirmed Aberdeen has worked out a schedule he plans on releasing this week. He stated that due to teams only playing teams within their own region, Shelton will not be competing in the 2A Evergreen League this season. But Crabb confirmed the void left in the league schedule has been filled with a most important tradition in the Twin Harbors.

“(The Myrtle Street Rivalry game between Aberdeen and Hoquiam) is on the schedule,” Crabb said. “It’s been bumped to the last game of the season, which is better for us because it’s more apt to get to Phase 2 and play it then.”

Over at perennial 1A power Montesano, Head Coach Terry Jensen and his coaching staff handed out football gear to 62 Bulldog student-athletes on Friday with the intention of beginning planned conditioning workouts this week.

Similar to the sentiment of coaches across the region, Jensen said the situation was “fluid” and uncertain, but is resolved to press on.

“As football coaches, we are all kind of control freaks, and this is totally the opposite,” he said. “Whatever cards we are dealt, we have to adjust and be flexible and do whatever is best for our kids and go from there.”

Similar to what Aberdeen has done with its health and wellness program that began in December, Montesano started an activity night program for its students last week and plans on using that system to help get athletes conditioned for football in advance of official practice on Feb. 1. The pod-based program allows for students to engage in activities of no more than six students, and Jensen stated that his players will have no physical contact — at least through the first week — as they work their way back into shape.

At this point, Jensen is just happy to get back to some semblance of high school football.

“We haven’t done one football thing with a ball, or pads or anything, since a year ago November,” he said. “That’s the last time we did anything with our team. (Tuesday was) the first day since then we have done something football-related with our kids.”