EVERETT — The Cascade Bruins football team went into practice this season thinking league championship — high aspirations for a team that hadn’t won a game in two years until head coach Joe Cronin arrived prior to the 2012 season.
Today, that goal may have become more attainable after the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced Josh Smith, a transfer student from Chiefland, Fla., is eligible to play immediately for the Bruins.
Smith relocated from Florida this past spring and attended Cascade for the end of his junior season. He went in front of a WIAA board at a hearing on Tuesday to prove that his relocation to Everett had nothing to do with football, but rather was about the hardships he had to deal with in Florida.
The WIAA agreed with that assessment and declared Smith eligible on Tuesday night.
Smith will assume starting quarterback duties for the Bruins, who open the 2013 season against Shorewood on Sept. 6.
This isn’t the first time Smith has lived in Everett. He lived in Florida before moving to Everett for his freshman year when he stayed with a cousin. After a falling out with the cousin he moved back to Florida where he finished his sophomore and junior seasons. The whole time he had stayed in contact with a family friend in Everett.
“We kind of worked things out so that led to me moving back up here at the end of my junior year,” Smith said.
While Smith was having individual success on the field at Chiefland High School where he earned an offer to play football at the University of South Alabama, it was becoming increasingly difficult to deal with other issues.
“It was hard times in Florida,” Smith said. “Community wise, people putting you down all the time, it just wasn’t a place for a boy my age to be exposed to the drugs and all that that was out there. It was a bad place and I saw that. It was hard for me to leave, but it was better for my family though.”
Aside from attending school and playing football, Smith also holds a landscaping job and tries to help out his siblings and his mother, who raised the kids on her own, as much as possible.
“I’ve got brothers and sisters that I care a lot about,” Smith said. “They look up to me. And a single mom raising five kids by herself had to play a role somehow. It was hard, but it was for the better though.”
And Cronin keeps a watchful eye on his new quarterback to make sure Smith is dealing with the situation as well as he can.
“I talk to him on the phone probably every day…because he misses his family,” Cronin said. “He’s used to having a bunch of brothers and sisters around. He just needs someone to talk to or someone to take him school clothes shopping. The (other) coaches kind of help out, we just make sure that he is supported.”
Smith didn’t go into great detail about what life was like in Florida, but he did present his situation to the WIAA in letters he wrote and Tuesday’s hearing.
“It’s obvious in my letters and everything that I wrote,” Smith said. “I just have to show them that it’s not because of football that I moved up here. There are just more opportunities and a better lifestyle to succeed up here.”
The WIAA’s decision suggests they agree with Smith.
Smith said the decision to attend Cascade wasn’t a hard one to make, it simply came down to proximity.
“I stay like one block away from Cascade,” Smith said. “Everybody was talking about, ‘you should of went to this school or you should have went to that school.’ I stay one block away from the school. I’m not trying to go through all those hard times are anything. I’m just going to go right here. It’s a pretty good squad right here, I like ‘em.”
And if there is still anyone out there who thinks football was the reason Smith relocated, he rejects that notion with a dose of humility.
“It’s not like they called me down in Florida like, ‘hey Josh,’” Smith said. “Out of all the great players in Florida, ‘Josh we need you up here.’” C’mon now. It’s not all about football.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.