In an attempt to make more balanced and safer leagues, plus a better playoff system, Northwest high school athletic directors are seeking to implement football-specific leagues.
The plan calls for combining the football teams from the Northwest Conference, the Cascade Conference and the Wesco 4A and 3A into five classification-specific leagues. While unofficial, the unnamed leagues are all but a certainty, with the athletic directors hoping to finalize schedules by next month.
Lakewood’s 2A Coach Dan Teeter is glad the leagues are thinking of safety. In one instance last season, Lakewood had to play three games in nine days.
“To me that doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s not in the best interest of the kids,” Teeter said.
Under the plan, all of Snohomish County’s football leagues will undergo at least a slight change. In 3A, the Wesco North will add Ferndale and Squalicum to go along with Arlington, Marysville Getchell, Marysville-Pilchuck, Oak Harbor and Stanwood.
The 2A league will be made up of Lakewood, Anacortes, Archbishop Murphy, Bellingham, Blaine, Burlington-Edison, Cedarcrest, Granite Falls, Lynden, Mountlake Terrace, Sedro-Woolley and Sehome.
“I think when we were sitting around the table the onus was, listen, if we keep matching up 1As against big 2As, football is going to go away at a lot of places,” Archbishop Murphy athletic director Erick Streelman said. “We don’t want anyone to get beat up.”
Adjustments will make the 3A North and South have seven teams each. Currently it is six for the 3A North and seven in the 3A south.
In the playoffs, the Wesco 3A North and South each get three berths, with the possibility of a seventh that would be shared between them. If the seventh spot becomes a reality, the fourth-place teams from each conference would play to decide the berth.
“It makes things very clean for advancing,” Arlington athletic director Tom Roys said.
Adjustments will also divide the 2A into two six-team divisions. The 2A playoff format is still to be determined. The schools will be divided based on a ranking system devised by the athletic directors to ensure a competitive balance.
The new league figures to be a powerhouse — its members have claimed seven of the past 10 Class 2A state champions.
“I’m really excited. I think it’ll make us the most competitive in the state,” Teeter said.
Leveling the playing field will help smaller schools that don’t have many kids turning out for football.
“If your numbers are down, then you probably have players that shouldn’t be playing high school football,” Teeter said, adding there were many inequities in the 2A division, with rebuilding programs facing elite teams.
Marysville athletic director Greg Erickson said, “Some teams were having a hard time maintaining teams and didn’t want those programs to fold. And plus it wasn’t much fun.”
Roys added: “Football is kind of a unique sport in that the size of the school plays a big factor on football” because of how large the talent pool is to choose from.
The athletic directors hope to have the leagues finalized soon after the WIAA meets to hear appeals on Jan. 24-25.
The leagues involved will remain in their current formats for all other sports.
-David Krueger of The Herald contributed to this report.