High-school football kicked off Wednesday across the state.
But the first official day of fall practice is considered by every program as more of a conclusion than a beginning. The three weeks or so of fall camp completes a nearly yearlong process for these teams.
“You’re not really going to get any faster or stronger come Aug. 20,” King’s coach Jim Shapiro said. “Any program that gets there, you get to a tipping point. It becomes who you are. Even at a Skyline or Bellevue.”
No matter what the classification, successful teams in September and beyond are made or broken long before August practice starts.
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“Really, fall practice is fine-tuning,” Glacier Peak coach Rory Rosenbach said. “We already know who has done the work.”
That work began in late December or early January, when players are encouraged to take weightlifting P.E. classes and get in the weight room on off hours. The hard work for Washington schools in Class 3A or 4A is an effort to catch perennial champions Bellevue and Skyline.
By the time summer camps roll around, including 7-on-7 camps like the one held each year at the University of Washington, teams begin to emerge. Expect the usual suspects to shine, from what coaches have seen at those camps.
“I hear Bellevue is going to be good,” Rosenbach deadpanned. His Grizzlies are a perennial South Division contender in the WesCo 3A ranks, and always find themselves chasing the Wolverines come playoff time in November. “O’Dea will be special.”
That begs the question, of course. Just who might surprise?
Coaches don’t have the answer to that, even after the summer. Instead, it’s the teams that always are good that have stood out.
Bothell garnered attention at camps. So did Lake Stevens in WesCo 4A.
“We just respect those kids so much that commit to our programs,” Rosenbach said. “It’s not easy, not fun. In the winter, you get in the weight room and get to work. Then the spring comes and you get a little break to have some fun with it. Then you get back to work in the summer.”
Football differs, coaches say, from other sports. Even kids that commit to basketball or baseball year-round aren’t subjected to down-and-dirty work all day, every day, for eight months.
“In baseball, you have to have at-bats and innings. Basketball, you need a bunch of games to improve,” Marysville-Pilchuck coach Brandon Carson said. “That’s the thing with football. It’s different from any other sport. In football, you get in the weight room to get bigger and stronger. That’s where your money’s made.”
The three weeks that began on Wednesday have a different purpose.
“For us, it’s more game prep for Lynden,” said Shapiro, whose team opens with another 1A power the first week of September. “We put in a good summer. The kids are well-tuned up and ready to go.”
While Shapiro’s team expects to make yet another trip to the state playoffs this fall, he’s aware that fortunes can turn, and will for some team, even if nobody knows who that team is today.
“You’re working,” Shapiro said. “And you know there’s somebody out there working just as hard or harder. Somebody will surprise.”
That surprising team won’t be made beginning Wednesday, though. The process began eight months ago.