The Borderite football team has not played a snap since its November 2019 playoff game against Liberty High School and the team’s newly built stadium remains unused.
For the past several months, the team has been communicating using a Google Classroom, talking about football and everything else at a distance, said head coach Jay Dodd. They are also following the constantly changing Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) return-to-play guidelines.
“It’s been a lot of different scenarios and a lot of different plans,” Dodd said.
Blaine High School students began hybrid learning January 11, and under new WIAA guidelines released January 6, traditional fall sports, such as football, could begin competition as soon as next month. Traditional spring and winter sports are expected to follow, beginning March 15, and April 26.
However, that is dependent on the region meeting Covid-19 metric goals set by governor Jay Inslee’s “Healthy Washington” plan. To meet the guidelines, Whatcom, and the other three counties comprising the north region, must move into phase 2 of the governor’s plan. As of a January 15 report, the region is hitting three of four metric goals to move phases.
Alongside the guideline change, the Borderites will begin holding daily practices starting this week, according to an email Dodd sent football families. The practices will feature physical conditioning and small six-person groups for football specific drills.
“I have one last year and I don’t want to miss out on it,” said Colton Pedersen, a senior offensive lineman and linebacker.
Pedersen said he was looking forward to his senior night.
“Being able to walk out on that field with my dad and look at the crowd and know that I played four years of high school football and worked hard, just to have that final gratification,” he said.
Senior quarterback Will McKinney said he felt safe returning to school and is excited about the possibility of football returning, as well.
“Walking through the halls after being away for almost a year, it’s a little eerie, but I think the experience has been good, it’s definitely something you miss,” he said.
As there are no practices occurring, both athletes have been working out at home over the past few months. Pedersen, who is also on the wrestling team, has been wrestling with a few teammates to maintain fitness. Both said there were difficulties in keeping the team motivated due to less contact with each other and their coaches.
“Now that we’re back in school, we’ll see people,” McKinney said. “It’s like a small community, I think it will keep people motivated and engaged.”
Dodd echoed this sentiment, expressing the importance of students having role models.
“The biggest challenge is not getting to see these kids every day,” he said. “These kids are dealing with a lot, and it’s so important for them to have a coach or teacher they can depend on.”
Dodd and district athletic director Sean Linville said the school is currently working on a plan for safely resuming athletics if the region moves to phase 2. Dodd said if the school can provide athletics safely he thinks everyone would have a greater appreciation for the opportunity.
“If there’s one positive to come out of the last 10 months, it’s when something gets taken away from you and then all of a sudden when [the students] get to come back, we’re all going to appreciate it that much more,” he said.
According to a survey of 30,000 student athletes conducted by the University of Wisconsin in May, high school student athletes in Wisconsin were no more likely to test positive for Covid-19 compared to other 14 to 17-year-olds during the same time. All of the schools surveyed had a formal Covid-19 plan in place, 83 percent required mask wearing.
If play does return, the season will be condensed to seven weeks and will likely not include state playoffs. Still, Pedersen and McKinney said they are thrilled for the opportunity to play again.
“Everyone should be ready for the season,” Pedersen said. “We are pretty amped and want to get back out on that field and work hard.”