Cascade High School football coach Jordan Sieh hopes his program’s decision to play an independent football schedule will help spark a movement across Wesco in all sports.
The fourth-year Bruins head coach is a strong supporter of the growing trend of tiered prep sports league, which several conferences across the state have gone to in select sports in an effort to creative competitive balance.
“I think the funnest games as a coach is when … it comes down to a touchdown or two,” he said. “It’s the key plays. Did my guys execute? Did I have a good game plan as a coach? We try and get as many games like those as we can.”
So when the opportunity to enter a two-year cycle as an independent team arose after the 2019 season, Sieh was quick seize it with the hopes that it could help pave the way towards tiered divisions in the future.
“I just want as many teams as possible to play competitive games across the board — guys sports, girls sports — and we just kind of decided that maybe this is a step towards it,” Sieh said. “So that’s what we’re doing this year, and we’re excited.”
The Bruins are one of three Wesco football teams playing an independent schedule this season. The others are Everett and Shorewood.
All three teams will play a full schedule of games, including matchups with familiar Wesco foes that won’t count in the league standings.
“The schedule hasn’t changed that much,” third-year Everett head coach Brien Elliot said. “Our rivals are still there. What’s changed is we’re not playing … the powerhouses in the league and they’re getting a tougher opponent. So it’s good for them and it’s good for us.”
The move to an independent schedule was an easy one to make for the Seagulls because they’ve recently seen what can happen when a young, rebuilding program gets thrown into the fire against strong, experienced teams.
When Elliot took over the team, he had just 17 players turn out for spring ball. All but two were from the previous season’s freshman team.
Elliot said Everett ended up with about 50 players when summer practices started, but around 30 of those players were freshmen.
The Seagulls went 0-10 that season and lost seven games by 20 or more points.
“It really comes down to a safety thing,” he said. “Kids aren’t able to get into their position of hitting and blocking. They’re not at the speed level that a 17-year-old or 18-year-old is playing at. It becomes a little bit dangerous.”
Everett is young again this season with sophomores making up 50% of the varsity roster, according to Elliot.
The hope is that a competitively balanced schedule will give the program’s younger kids the opportunity to properly develop.
“It allows them to have an experience that is confident and to gain knowledge,” Elliot said, “because realistically the way that you get good in football is to play in a game. If you’re playing in a game in a live experience when you’re outmatched in every facet, it’s not a positive experience. It’s not a growing experience.”
There’s still a path to postseason football for all three of Wesco’s independent teams. To get there they’ll have to go undefeated, which only one team can do since all three play each other once.
An undefeated Wesco team playing an independent schedule would qualify for a Week 9 Tuesday play-in game against the fifth seed from Wesco 3A North. The winner of that game would advance to face the Wesco 3A South No. 3 seed in a win-or-go-home game on Saturday.
A playoff opportunity would certainly be welcomed by any of the three programs, but the focus this season is give their players the best experience possible — win or lose.
“It’s so important that the kids have fun when they’re playing,” Elliot said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that in the end they win the game, but they’re competitive and they’ll have a play here where they did good, and they’ll have one where we can build them up and … help them out.”