Labor Day means football

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association needs to take a hard look at itself. Why is the high school football season starting so early?

This year, football programs across Washington began fall practice on Aug. 12 and played their first regular season games last week, basically giving Federal Way school district athletes a month-and-a-half summer vacation.

“I hate it,” admitted Decatur football coach Bill Heglar. “It’s nothing but problems.”

The reason for the early start stems from the WIAA allowing football programs to play a 10-game schedule. This is the second year the rule has been in effect and the second year teams have started their regular seasons on Labor Day weekend, which is an idea that is also pretty laughable.

The three-day weekend is known as the last bastion of the summer, and parents with school-age children often take advantage of Labor Day to get out of town one more time before school kicks off.

The out-of-town element was evident at last Thursday night’s season opener between the Federal Way Eagles and Rogers Rams. To say the home crowd was sparse would be putting it lightly. In fact, the crowd on Rogers’ side actually outnumbered Eagles fans. And the visiting fans had to fight the traffic all the way from Puyallup.

Also hurting the attendance numbers was the fact that school in Federal Way didn’t even start until yesterday. Not having classes during the day didn’t allow the word about the games to be passed around campus, because in the past few years, football games have developed into more of a social gathering than a sporting event. Not having classes also didn’t give the varsity football player a chance to prance around campus dressed in their uniform during the first week of the season, which is a pretty big honor.

Being in the South Puget Sound League also doesn’t do the Federal Way schools any favors. As the biggest league in the state, the SPSL South doesn’t allow any non-league games to be played, and all games count toward the post-season. A bulk of the other leagues around the state play at least one non-league game to open up.

“This is a game that has playoff implications,” said Federal Way head coach John Meagher about the Eagles’ opening week matchup with Rogers, which Federal Way lost 40-18. “That’s tough after only 13 days of practice.”

The only advantage I can see about starting the season in the middle of August is there aren’t any distractions surrounding practice. It gives the kids a chance to gear all of their attention toward football.

“I think it’s kind of nice,” said Beamer coach Jeff Housman. “They get three weeks to focus on football and don’t have to worry about the classroom.

“But it’s tough to get a fan base.”

So we’ll just have to wait and see the crowds this week at Federal Way Memorial Stadium, now that school’s back in session.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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