SPORTS: Matt Schubert’s Preps notes: Playoff home fields unfair to North Olympic Peninsula football teams; Port Townsend loses much more than football game

SOMETIMES, HOME TEAMS travel too.

Such will be the case for the Sequim and Port Angeles football teams in the first week of November.

Both earned the right to “host” Class 2A preliminary playoff games after clinching top-two Olympic League finishes Friday.

Yet because of the West Central District’s insistence that all postseason games be played on artificial turf, both must play that game at North Kitsap’s field in Poulsbo.

“It’s a playoff game, and it needs to be on a turf field,” Port Angeles School District athletic director Dwayne Johnson said.

“The bottom line is they don’t want the field to have an affect on the game.”

One could argue — I’ll volunteer to be that guy — that administrators have already altered the game to some extent.

A “home” game on the Kitsap Peninsula? That’s hardly a just reward for a pair of North Olympic Peninsula teams that will finish 1-2 in their league.

There’s a reason Puget Sound teams rarely come to the North Olympic Peninsula for nonleague games: They don’t like making the long drive.

It’s a big advantage for Peninsula teams; one you’d think the Roughriders and Wolves earned given their regular season performance.

Instead, they will face teams that finished third or fourth in their own leagues at a neutral site an hour’s drive away from home.

In years past, Sequim hosted preliminary playoff games on its grass field after winning league titles.

The big change this time around? District voting at the 2A level is now skewed considerably toward the other side of the water.

Hence, the new ruling that 2A preliminary playoffs games must be on turf.

(Side note: This rule has applied to state playoff games for some time, just not the preliminary round.)

Rather than complain, however, Johnson took the high road on the issue.

“I wish Sequim had field turf. I wish we had field turf,” he said. “That’s the industry standard right now.”

Certainly, it cannot be argued that grass fields on the rainy North Olympic Peninsula often turn into mud patches by the end of the season. And that could play a considerable role in affecting a game’s outcome.

But so, too, could a blustery rainstorm like the one Sequim played Lynden in last fall’s 2A state playoffs. Does that mean we need to have every game in the Tacoma Dome?

At some point, the regular season has to count for something.

And not just for communities that happen to have turf fields.

PT’s extra loss

The Port Townsend Redskins didn’t just lose a game Friday night against top-ranked Cascade Christian.

With all-everything playmaker Mel Thornton suffering a possible season-ending injury at the end of the fourth quarter, they also lost a major team leader.

“That’s a huge blow to our team,” Port Townsend coach Tom Webster said.

“He’s one of our very best players on both sides of the ball.”

That was easy to see on Friday night.

The sophomore led the team in passings yards (89) and rushing yards (33) while also catching four passes and recovering a fumble on special teams.

He’s lined up all over the field for the Redskins this season, taking snaps at quarterback, receiver, running back, defensive back and on kick coverage.

“It’s very unfortunate for him, because he really loves football,” Webster said. “You can tell. He plays with a lot of passion out there.”

Indeed, Thornton competes with a purpose that flies in the face of his relatively diminutive size (5-foot-10, 175 pounds).

He has no problem running north-south and taking on tacklers, as well as delivering hits on defense.

And as his fumble recovery in the first quarter illustrated, he has a nose for the ball.

The sophomore shook off one particularly vicious hit — two Cougar defenders converged to tackle him at once on a sweep — in the first half like it was a bug bite.

The collision was audible throughout Memorial Field. Yet there was Thornton immediately popping up and howling at his teammates to let them know it was no big deal.

Unfortunately, his hard-nosed running also may have led to his injury in the fourth: a possible broken collar bone sustained on another tough run.

“We’ll just have to make some adjustments [without him],” said Webster, who still has rival Chimacum on the schedule.

“We’ve got some other guys who will have to come in and step up and get a chance to play.

“[Thornton] likes to play, and he’s only a sophomore, so there’s a lot of good things for him in the future.”

________

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 matt.schubert@peninsuladailynews.com.

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