Northwest 2A football league to look a bit different this fall

Anacortes won’t field a varsity team, and Blaine is moving to the Sky Division of the two-tiered league.

Anacortes High School has decided not to field a varsity football team this season because of low expected turnout among juniors and seniors, according to a report last week from the Skagit Valley Herald.

Anacortes athletic director Erik Titus told the Skagit Valley Herald that the Seahawks had just 10 upperclassmen interested in playing football this season, and that some of those 10 were still on the fence.

“You simply can’t throw sophomores into that fire, into that situation,” Titus told the Skagit Valley Herald. “It’s a safety risk at this level. You have to have the numbers. You have to have the kids who want to play.”

Anacortes’ decision leaves just four teams — Mountlake Terrace, Cedarcrest, Bellingham and Sehome — in the Northwest 2A Lake Division this season. The Lake Division is the lower of the district-wide Class 2A football league’s two competitively balanced divisions.

Anacortes went 0-9 last year, losing by an average of 28 points per game. The Seahawks lost all five of their Lake Division contests and ended last season by forfeiting their first-round Class 2A Northwest/Sea-King Bi-District playoff game against Lakewood over player-safety concerns.

Titus told The Herald last October that Anacortes had been suiting up less than 20 varsity players toward the end of last year — a number that dwindled even further after multiple injuries in its regular-season finale.

“It’s sad what’s happened at Anacortes,” said Mountlake Terrace coach Tony Umayam, who began his second run as the Hawks’ head coach this spring after previously coaching the program from 2004 through 2014. “It’s a lot different now than it was 15 years ago. … Turnout has dropped off quite a bit (in) high school football.”

Anacortes’ decision leaves an opening in Week 4 of Mountlake Terrace’s schedule. Umayam said the school’s administration is “scrambling” to find a new opponent.

“Maybe when we get to that point in the season, if we need the rest or we need injuries to heal, we might welcome having a bye,” Umayam said. “But being that the high school season is so much shorter than college and professional, you just want to give the guys a chance to play. So (we’d) highly prefer to have a game Week 4.”

Blaine, meanwhile, has moved up from the Lake Division to the Northwest 2A Sky Division. The Borderites join Archbishop Murphy, Lakewood, Burlington-Edison, Lynden and Sedro-Woolley in the upper division of the two-tiered league.

After the conclusion of last season, the district used a weighted formula to determine whether teams were placed in the Sky Division or Lake Division for this coming season, Northwest Conference president Mike McKee said. The formula included factors such as roster size, number of graduating seniors, number of underclassmen, a coaches poll and win-loss record.

McKee said the formula resulted in the same five teams in the Sky Division for this season, but that there’s a provision allowing one of the Lake Division teams to opt up to the Sky Division.

McKee said there were one or two Lake Division teams ahead of Blaine in the formula that declined the option to move up, which provided the Borderites the opportunity to do so.

Last year, Blaine went 5-5 overall and finished fourth out of six teams in the Lake Division with a 2-3 league record. The Borderites beat Lake Division co-champion Mountlake Terrace in the first round of the bi-district playoffs, but fell 47-0 to Sky Division champion Lynden in a winner-to-state contest.

“I think Blaine (believes) with the kids they have coming back that they’re going to be more competitive (than last year),” McKee said. “You wouldn’t opt to be in the Sky unless that’s the case. … Nobody’s going to opt up unless they think they belong, because it just wouldn’t be good for them.

“Head coaches know what they have in their program,” he added. “They’re the ones in the front line. … That’s why we put that (provision) in there. We didn’t want somebody in the lower division that thought they were going to be really good, (and have them) stay down there and pound everybody.”

This upcoming season will be the second year of the Northwest 2A football league’s tiered structure. The format was implemented prior to last season in an effort to improve competitive balance and help struggling football programs.

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