Davis Lura isn’t just trying to teach a football team. He’s trying to teach an entire city.
When the head coach of the Marysville Getchell football team, which is in just its third season, isn’t on the field coaching the Chargers, he makes a point of being out in the community so that he can drum up support — and attention — for Marysville’s newest high school.
“Everybody knows there’s MP (Marysville Pilchuck), but not a lot of people know there’s MG,” said Lura, whose Chargers (2-2) play MP (4-0) tonight in the annual Berry Bowl. “So it’s important for me to be out in the community and let people get to know me and know that there’s an alternative to the other school.”
Marysville Pilchuck has been around since the 1970s and its football team has been to the state tournament three of the past four seasons. The Tomahawks have achieved the kind of success Lura and the Chargers are shooting for.
“The thing that we’ve found success in is, No. 1, we have really good players right now. We have a great crop of talent,” said Brandon Carson, who is in his seventh season as Marysville Pilchuck’s head coach. “Second, we’ve got great continuity in our coaching staff. Most of them have been with me ever since I got here and I think that helps a lot.”
Unlike most school districts with multiple high schools, the Marysville School District has open enrollment. The students choose which of the two high schools they want to attend based on a number of factors, including academics, location and, perhaps, football.
“Football. Definitely,” said MP freshman Austin Taylor, who plays on the Tomahawks’ freshman team. “The sports program is probably 10-times better than Getchell. It’s obviously showed in the games, right? Sports definitely drew me to MP. It was probably the biggest factor.”
“I was sure I wanted to go to MP from the get-go,” said Nathan Layne, another freshman on the Pilchuck team. “All my friends were going to MP and Getchell just didn’t seem like a good fit for me.”
Layne, who moved to Marysville from San Diego in February, said the Tomahawks’ recent success played a role in his decision.
“It wasn’t really hard because football was pretty much the only reason I came to MP,” Layne said. “I did my research.”
Carson likes to think Pilchuck’s success plays a part in an athlete’s decision-making process.
“You’d hope so,” he said. “We’ve established a program and we’d love for all the kids to come to MP but obviously there’s a cap for how many can get in and that works for both places.”
Both Carson and Lura visit middle schools and try to be visible figures in the Marysville football community. The two had a co-op football camp last summer, splitting the kids in half and having them spend two days at Pilchuck and two days at Getchell.
“The football programs, and basketball, they’ve actually presented camps to the youth and actually worked together,” Marysville School District athletic director Greg Erickson said. “They’re not going against each other. From the very beginning it’s been about two campuses, one community.”
Both Lura and Carson hope to tap into that community to replenish their numbers each season.
“Building the program, part of that piece is being in the community and making people aware,” Lura said. “I think that both Carson and I do about the same thing. I know we both go down and talk to the kids at the middle school. I know that I go down and try to at least wish them luck on their last game.”
Carson said he tries to be a well-known face in the community and will coach whoever wants to come play for him at Pilchuck.
“I hope all the eighth graders come to MP,’ he said. “But that’s not the case. You just coach whatcomes to you. I’ve visited a couple middle schools recently. I’m not going to beg kids to come play here but we like to be a presence in the community. Our players have visited middle schools of late. And it’s not just to get kids to come to MP, which would be great, but we want to get them to come watch games Friday nights. It lets the community know we care.”
For the first time, Getchell actually brought in more freshmen this season than its crosstown rival. Marysville Pilchuck had “around 30” according to Carson, which he said has been the average the past few years. Getchell, meanwhile, went from 23 freshmen in 2012 to 45 first-year players this year.
That tells Lura his community awareness campaign is working.
Lura said he’s not sure what’s behind the shift this season, but thinks it has to do more with academics than football.
“As much as I’d like to think people are coming here for football, in reality academics are the most important thing and I think that’s what kids are trying to get into when making their decisions,” Lura said. “… We may have gotten some guys to come here because of football, maybe because of the offense we’re running or the defense we’re running. It may be the school of business (at Getchell) and they want to go into business.”
Marysville Getchell has a large freshman group. Many of them are friends who have been playing together for a long time. That solidarity may have been a factor in Getchell’s freshmen haul.
“I wanted to be an engineer so I went to (Getchell). Then I heard all my friends were going to Getchell anyway and knew the freshman team was going to be a great team,” Chargers freshman Teddy Wallick said.
Adding to the familiarity for the freshmen at Getchell is the Chargers’ coaching staff.
“Some of the coaches I used to have on the last football team I played for came to Getchell and helped us,” said Ethan Watts, a quarterback on the freshman team. “They’re a really nice organization and we’re starting to build and get a lot more players so I decided I’d rather go here. It’s fun growing up with a brand new school and making history.”
“It was going to be Getchell because, first, it’s closer (to where I live) and then I know the coaches more,” agreed Collin Montez, one of two freshman on the varsity squad at Getchell. “I wanted to come here. I like the school.”
The Pilchuck and Getchell C-Teams have their own version of the Berry Bowl on Wednesday.
Players, coaches and administrators at both schools agree that Marysville has the talent and depth to supply two playoff-caliber high school football teams in the future.
“I think you can support both teams. There’s enough people in this town,” Lura said. “It’s huge. I’m from Stanwood and I checked the numbers of the Stanwood School District compared to the Marysville School District and there’s four-times the amount of kids in Marysville.”
Added Erickson: “I see no reason why they can’t maintain two competitive football programs. Last year they were. In terms of sustaining it, I think our participation numbers are strong. I think the interest is very, very strong in terms of participation in our youth sports. Especially for football.
“They do it in Snohomish, Everett and a lot of other communities. I don’t see why we can’t do it too.”