Jim Wood is contemplating a change in gear to start the 2009 Freeman High School football season.
“We’re going to start the season,” he laughed. “We may be wearing hardhats instead of helmets. And we may have to find someplace else to play, but we’re going to make the best of it.”
Wood is officially a coach without a high school. The football team started practice Wednesday in the middle of a construction area.
“Have you been by lately?” he asked. “It’s all torn up down here. We have the two gyms left, but that’s about it. I’m hoping we get a few walls up sometime soon.”
Where the high school stood when the summer started is now a blank slate. Asphalt from the parking lot is in piles along South Jackson Road while men in white hardhats work among heavy equipment preparing the ground for new construction.
But that’s not all.
The antique cinder track that has ringed the football field since the old school opened has been replaced with asphalt.
But therein lies the rub.
“Starting next week we’re going to be off the football field for 15 days while they finish putting in the new track,” Wood said. “The asphalt is already down and they’re waiting for it to cure. Once they start work surfacing it, they don’t want us walking on it to get to our field.
“That’s going to play havoc with our Blue-and-White Scrimmage. I’m hoping I can bus the whole team over to the old University High School for that. I already know that our first game will be moved. I’m not sure where yet, but it’s out. We’re talking to a couple schools about using their field.
“Hopefully we won’t have to move our second game, but if they get behind in the construction that could change. They’re already a little behind.”
The Scotties’ first game will be with Deer Park, followed by nonleague home games against Priest River and Lakeland before opening the Northeast A League season against visiting Newport. The first time Freeman takes to the road, officially, will be Oct. 9, when the team travels to Kettle Falls.
Wood and the Scotties are making the best of the situation.
“I tell the kids that if they start worrying about the construction, then they aren’t doing their jobs,” he said. “I’ve got a makeshift locker room set up in the old wrestling room and they’re going to make a practice field for us over on the baseball field.”
Whichever field the Scotties take to, they have some building of their own to get done before the season opener.
“We’re pretty young and we have some kids who will have to learn how to step and play if we’re going to be successful,” Wood said. “Right now we’re still trying to get kids moved so that we have everything covered.”
The Scotties return just two starters on offense and the same number on defense.
West Valley Eagles
At West Valley, coach Craig Whitney has numbers on his side.
The Eagles welcomed 35 freshmen – all familiar with the WV playbook.
“We have a great relationship with the coaches over at Centennial Middle School,” Whitney explained. “They’re running the exact same playbook we’re running here. The terminology is the same, so these kids come in understanding what we’re doing.”
The Eagles added former Centennial assistant coach Craig McIntyre, himself a former West Valley and Eastern Washington University standout, to be the school’s freshman head coach.
“Craig brings a lot of excitement to the program and, since he’s been working with these kids, he really knows what he’s got to work with,” Whitney said. “It’s good to bring in a young guy like this – it adds a lot to our staff.”
Now in his sixth season leading West Valley, Whitney sees a great deal of growth in his program.
For proof, he points out senior lineman Nick Brown.
“Nick has been our kicker in addition to being a two-way starter,” the coach explained. “He also plays soccer. He had a young freshman on the soccer team that he started talking to about coming out and kicking for the football team. He wanted to recruit someone to replace him when he graduated. That’s what you call senior leadership.”
Turns out, Brown recruited a chance for a breather in games this fall.
Over the summer sophomore Randall Harris met with Whitney for, well, a job interview.
“We got out some footballs and had him kick,” Whitney laughed. “It was a short interview. All I said was ‘You got the job.’ ”
On just the second day of fall practice, Harris put on a show during PAT drills – splitting the uprights with lots of room to spare.
The Eagles lose three starters from a year ago, on both offense and defense. In addition, they return All-Great Northern League first-team quarterback Drew Clausen and first-team defensive lineman Hovik Melkonyan. Second-team All-GNL linebacker Sam Schoesler returns.
“We’re going to move Mitch Peterson back to free safety this year,” Whitney said. “Last year we moved him to linebacker. When he went down with an injury we had a freshman step up and play so well that we’re going to move Mitch back and let him cover some ground back there.”