NOT TO BEAT a dead(beat) horse, but cash keeps coming into play in high school athletics.
As I mentioned in a column at the beginning of the fall, this particular school year — more than any other in recent history — is all about the Benjamins.
School districts throughout the state are strapped for cash due to troubling economic times, thus many high school sporting events have been pared down.
Several annual tournaments on the North Olympic Peninsula are feeling the pain, like the Salt Creek Invitational in the fall, the Rainshadow Invitational last weekend in Sequim and the Battle for the Axe in Port Angeles this coming Saturday.
The latter will have just four wrestling teams competing this year: host Port Angeles, Sequim, Kingston and Kentridge.
A fifth — 3A Juanita of the KingCo — had to bail at the last minute on tournament organizer and Roughrider coach Erik Gonzalez.
It seems the drive to the North Olympic Peninsula is now too much for some school districts in the I-5 Corridor. While that’s not an entirely new concept, it is certainly more pronounced nowadays.
“It has become more challenging,” Sequim athletic director Dave Ditlefsen said after three schools backed out the Rainshadow last week.
“Teams are less willing to come up here for nonleague games and tournaments.”
New restrictive travel policies placed on athletic directors trickle down to unwitting coaches. Thus they are forced to back out of prior commitments at the last minute.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Rainshadow organizer Steve Chinn said last week. “When coaches make a commitment to a tournament, they’ve got to go.”
Rather than be the small fry in the 3A/4A Narrows League, the Bremerton Knight have opted to stick with tradition . . . albeit a new one.
The Knights will remain in the Olympic League despite being the lone 3A school beginning next school year.
In a recurring theme, lighter travel played a role in the decision, as did the desire to keep geographic rivals on the schedule, according to a report in the Kitsap Sun.
“We were happy to get that news,” Ditlefsen said. “Geographically they are a reasonable team for us to travel and play, and we have some rivalries there.
“We’ve always supported Bremerton being in the league.”
Port Angeles, North Kitsap and Olympic all drop down to 2A next year. The Knights ended up two spots shy of joining them.
Now they will compete in all sports (including football) as the lone 3A, meaning they will be against the wall when it comes to district qualification.
I’m guessing a first- or second-place league finish will be required.
A couple of nuggets for high school football fans to nibble on:
• With a significant increase in the number of 2A schools (20) in the West Central District next fall, talk of a two-week preliminary state playoff in Weeks 9 and 10 has been bandied about.
Under the proposal, three to four teams from the Olympic and whatever other leagues exist in the WCD 2A — this has still not been ironed out — would be thrown into a two-week playoff to decide the five state representatives from the district. Sounds pretty exciting, huh?
Well, this idea is in the extreme early stages of development (think zygote), so don’t get your hopes up too much.
• Expect the Olympic League schedule to end with some sort of “rivalry week.”
The idea of each team playing its geographical rival in the final week is a popular one with league ADs.
A guess as to what that would look like: Port Angeles-Sequim, North Kitsap-Kingston, Olympic-Klahowya and Bremerton-North Mason.
You could also switch those last two games around and go Olympic-Bremerton and Klahowya-North Mason.
________Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com.