Chris Hill fielded six telephone calls a week ago, 24 hours before his school’s football team — Mount Si — played its game against Yelm.
“They went all the way to Idaho,” Hill, Mount Si’s athletic director, said of how far away the calls came from.
Each carried the same question: Did Mount Si want to play the next day?
Such are the exchanges going on all over Washington over the first several weeks of the high-school football season. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact schedules.
A year ago, the pandemic wiped out the fall football season completely. Most schools got to play a truncated season last spring that did not include any state playoffs. The most teams could achieve during the spring was a league title.
By this fall, full schedules had returned. But they have been anything but set in stone.
The Mount Si vs. Yelm game was a replacement on the Week 2 schedule. The Wildcats originally were to host WesCo power Lake Stevens, while Yelm was set to face Pierce County League defending champ Spanaway Lake.
Both of those schools have been unable to hit the field for either of their first two weeks of nonconference games due to COVID-19 issues surrounding their teams. Because Spanaway Lake and Lake Stevens knew of their problems before Week 1, Mount Si and Yelm connected two weeks ago.
“We got it scheduled that night (on Wednesday),” Hill said. “You’re just looking at so many games being canceled.”
Those athletic directors that called Hill likely saw the Lake Stevens hole on Mount Si’s schedule, but were not aware of the replacement game already scheduled.
Exactly how many games already have been affected is unknown. But as the schedule heads into just Week 3 of the season, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association scheduling portal, where teams can post openings on the schedule or find other teams needing an opponent, has been humming, according to WIAA Director of Information Casey Johnson.
Johnson said he has gotten the question concerning how many games have been affected several times in the past week or so, but the WIAA isn’t keeping track.
“We’re not,” Johnson said. “Any kind of scheduling during the regular season is done at the local level.”
Johnson mentioned three schools that he could see still posted from Week 2 — Lake Roosevelt, North Beach and Squalicum all lost games last minute and were seeking replacement opponents. Lake Roosevelt also was still looking for a Week 4 game as of Monday.
Squalicum’s lost game was not due to COVID-19, said athletic director Patrick Brown, who pointed out that Sequim canceled because of injuries.
“I was super nervous when Spanaway Lake canceled,” Yelm coach Jason Ronquillo said. “It’s not just a matter of putting any game in. We’ve mentally got to prepare against good teams because in our league we’re going to see well-prepared teams.”
Thus, finding Class 4A Mount Si as a replacement for his Class 3A Tornados was huge, Ronquillo said. The same happened across the field last Friday, despite the 41-20 loss Yelm dealt Mount Si.
“We scheduled Lake Stevens for a reason,” Mount Si coach Charlie Kinnune said. “To come in here and do just this. This is a brand new team. That’s a part of my plan, believe it or not. And a part of it is playing somebody really good.”