GRANITE FALLS — A group of parents, coaches and players from Granite Falls High School gathered on Tuesday night to let school and district officials know they were opposed to playing Archbishop Murphy in a scheduled football game Friday night.
Those comments followed an explanation by school principal Kevin Davis why the district wanted to proceed with the game. But after an hour of feedback from the gathering — and that feedback was virtually unanimous that Granite Falls should not play Friday’s game — the district sent out an email announcing a forfeiture.
It will be the third consecutive week that a Cascade Conference school has chosen not to play Archbishop Murphy, a private Catholic school with a powerful Class 2A football program. The Wildcats opened their season with consecutive victories against Issaquah, Blanchet and King’s by a combined score of 173-0. But given Archbishop Murphy’s wealth of talent — the Wildcats have college prospects at several positions — South Whidbey voted to forfeit its Sept. 23 game due to concerns about player safety.
Sultan followed suit on Sept. 30 and now Granite Falls has done the same.
After Davis began Tuesday’s meeting by explaining why he and assistant principal/athletic director Joey Johnson had favored going ahead with the game, the parents had their say. And that message was emphatic and at times emotional.
Dave Ray, whose son Braden Counsellor is a sophomore running back, safety and kick returner, told the panel of Davis, Johnson and district superintendent Karen Hall that the reasoning for going ahead with the game “doesn’t make sense to me. Yes, we made a commitment (with the league to play), but is it worth it to put our children (at risk). … This is not right.”
Ray concluded his remarks by telling the three officials that “I will not let my son play against Archbishop (Murphy) this Friday.” His remarks were applauded by many of the other parents.
Though the meeting began on a cordial note, it later gave way to unhappy voices, shouted interruptions and occasional profanities. If there was a common sentiment from the parents, it was that a school in a small community like Granite Falls has no business being in the same league with a private school like Archbishop Murphy that can attract outstanding athletes from a vast geographic area to be part of its outstanding football program.
“We have the kids our community gives us,” said Kelly Barrows, a Granite Falls alum whose son is a freshman on this year’s football team. “I have nothing but pride in our boys and in our town.”
Her son, she added, “is not suiting up Friday night.”
About 20 Granite Falls players also attended the meeting, which was held in the school library. At one point the players moved en masse to a far end of the library and huddled. There was a show of hands and then the players returned, with senior Colton Petit announcing that the players did not want to play against the Wildcats.
First-year Granite Falls coach Tim Dennis and his assistant coaches attended the meeting and also expressed their concerns. As Dennis explained later, “Ultimately my job, No. 1, is look out for these boys. At the same time, the competitor in me and the competitor in them does want to play the game, but the wise decision … is to not decimate the program for one game that really doesn’t mean anything.”
In his opening remarks, Davis covered all the options Granite Falls officials had considered, including trying to switch opponents with other schools in the area to find a more favorable matchup. But those efforts, he said, were unfortunately unsuccessful.
Davis also stressed his concerns about player safety. “We want to make sure we have reasonable opportunities to (have players) come off the field healthy. … The most important thing for us is the safety of the kids,” he told the gathering.