MATT SCHUBERT’S PREP NOTEBOOK: It’s all about the Benjamins

THE STORY BEHIND the story this prep sports year is all about the Benjamins.

Decreases in funding for school districts across the state have led to team cuts, decreases in travel and increases in the dreaded “pay to play” participation fees for many schools.

Just last weekend, for example, the Port Townsend football team had to raise funds for its trip to Orcas Island on Saturday, while the 32nd annual Salt Creek Invitational ended up with an abbreviated field (21) after several schools backed out due to a lack of travel money.

“The funding is a huge problem right now,” said Port Angeles coach Dwayne Johnson, who has organized the event the last 23 years.

“We’re down about seven or eight schools [this year]. We lost Kentlake, and the Vancouver [Wash.] schools that have normally come up have been restricted on their traveling.”

Extraordinary measures were taken to save C teams at the Peninsula’s two biggest schools: Port Angeles and Sequim.

The Port Angeles School District snatched its volleyball and girls basketball C teams from the chopping block after the School Board voted to put $25,000 back in its athletic budget.

Sequim eliminated the coaching stipends and travel budgets for five C teams (football, volleyball, boys and girls basketball and baseball), but is managing to field pseudo C teams with limited schedules this fall by having its varsity and junior varsity coaches fill in.

Whether that can work long enough for the two districts to weather the current financial doldrums remains to be seen. It will certainly be something worth keeping tabs on.

As the Port Townsend football program learned this summer — when it was informed it must come up with money for a trip it took last season, according to head coach Brian O’Hara — things can change pretty quickly.

Fast start

Forget about UW’s Steve Sarkisian.

The man making the most impressive one-year turnaround is Chim- acum head football coach Shawn Meacham.

With his Cowboys standing at 2-1 to begin his first season, Meacham already has more wins than the previous two Chimacum football campaigns combined (2-18 overall).

Class 1A Chimacum is off to its best start since at least 2000, beating a pair of 2A schools in Klahowya and Kingston while giving Forks a run for its money in a 18-6 loss on the road.

“Our goal was to be in every game we play this year, and we’ve definitely achieved that so far,” Meacham said. “I think it was a lot of hard work starting in spring practice and going into that Central Washington team camp [in the summer].”

Meacham sees the parallels between his program and Sarkisian’s, which beat the third-ranked USC Trojans in Seattle last Saturday for its own 2-1 start.

Both are coming off poor seasons with new head coaches trying to “change the culture,” as Meacham put it.

“[Coach Sarkisian’s] motto is ‘Expect to win,'” he said. “For us to be able to expect success we have to prepare to succeed. That’s the biggest stepping stone to our 2-1 start is our preparation. And it has to be there every week in practice.”

A few changes

The turnaround for first-year Port Angeles head coach Dick Abrams’ Roughriders (0-3 overall) hasn’t been so swift.

That being said, there have been a few cosmetic changes visible to the fans so far this season that Abrams hopes are part of a culture change of his own in Port Angeles.

Not only has the “PA” emblem been taken off Port Angeles’ helmets in favor of individual stickers, but the team occupied the opposite sideline across from the Civic Field grandstand at last Friday’s home opener for the first time in recent memory.

Both changes were made at the behest of the coaching staff, which is looking to get its players in a positive mindset after back-to-back losing seasons.

“We’re trying to get into that positive mode with them so that they do receive rewards for effort as a team and also as an individual,” Abrams said of the stickers, which are awarded to individuals based upon merit. “You’ll see those more and more on the helmets as the season progresses.”

As for the sideline change, “We actually moved over there so the guys can look at the crowd and see our fans and see them rooting for us.

“I think it’s a real positive thing for our guys to be able to look over and see the great crowd that we had.”

New addition

The Port Angeles girls cross country team received quite a boost when senior Chanda Romney transferred from Forks.

The three-time state competitor has finished in the top three at the Class 1A state meet each of the past two seasons for the Spartans.

As a running start student last year, Romney had already established residency in Port Angeles. So rather than make the trek back and forth from the West End, Chanda, her mother and her younger sister moved into a place in town.

She joins junior Alison Maxwel, who has qualified for the 3A state meet two years in a row, to give the Riders a 1-2 punch that rivals league foes Sequim (Allison Cutting and Audrey Lichten) and Kingston (Ruby and Marina Roberts).

They will get a shot at Kingston’s Roberts sisters today when they face off in Port Angeles’ Lincoln Park at 4 p.m.

“I’m excited about [today’s meet],” Port Angeles coach Dwayne Johnson said. “We’re going with our 1-2 punch, and Kingston with their 1-2 punch. It’s going to be pretty neat.

“If they come to run and they are healthy, we should have a good go at it.”


Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column normally appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at