Puget Sound players holding out hope for high school football in the fall

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) announced football practice can resume on September 5, but that doesn’t mean it will.

Football is considered a high-risk sport and can start in Washington state in Phase 4 of the state's phased approach to reopening amid the pandemic. 

Steele Swinton is an incoming senior at Edmonds-Woodway High School with 13 seasons of football under his belt from the time he was a youth player.

“I mean, the game means everything to me and my family. We just love it so much,” said Swinton. “This could be my last season playing football, but hopefully I’ll have a good senior year season and I’ll do everything in my power to not let it be my last season.”

Another player in the South Sound, Justin Brennan of Lakes High School in Lakewood, is also holding out hope for the fall.

“Without football, life’s just not the same,” said Brennan, who has received three offers to play on the university level. “It takes things off of my mind all the time. It’s more of like an escape for me. It’s a part of my life. Playing my last year with my brothers, it’s going to be mean a lot to me. Hopefully (we'll) get into state championships.”

Swinton said that’s what he misses about football too, “forming that bond with my friends and all the family, what I call my brothers of the football team,” he said.

In a statement, WIAA said they understand there are a lot of questions and the executive board hopes to provide answers on July 22. The day before that, the board will review other options for high school fall sports should further delays become necessary.

“We are pursuing every possible option to provide the opportunity to play and perform for our students,” said Mick Hoffman, Executive Director of WIAA. “A county must be in Phase 3 for low risk sports to practice and compete. Moderate sports can have modified practices. Phase 4 allows moderate sports to fully practice and compete. High risk sports can hold modified practices. We are waiting for DOH to define guidelines for high risk sports to compete.”

John Grandwohl is the head football coach at Edmonds-Woodway High School with 30 years of experience.

“As coaches, we love the sport and we love our kids. We’re anxious to get back just as much as they are… I’ve got some that have come through my youth program that have been coming to my camp since they were 6 years old and this is their senior year. I’m not there yet. I’m still very hopeful it’s going to happen.”

It sounds like players aren’t there yet either - and fully preparing for football this fall.

“Be positive, keep grinding because when we do have a season, we’re going to need to be in shape and we’re going to be needing to go full force, so keep grinding,” said Swinton.

The WIAA is telling schools to hold off on rescheduling fall sports with the most recent fall start date announcement, as that can change even as early as the end of July.