SPOKANE, Wash. — Thursday's news that Washington's East Region will move to Phase 2 was an emotional moment for players and coaches alike.
"Just being able to put on a helmet again, I’m just so excited," said Gonzaga Prep quarterback Ryan McKenna with a big grin. "It’s obviously a great feeling to have something to look forward to again and know that you’re working towards something that’s going to actually happen."
"When it’s quiet around my house at times, I’m like, 'Are we even going to have a season? Are we even going to have a chance? Are we blowing smoke to these people and families and kids?' When I got the text I started thinking, ‘Wow, I wasn’t blowing smoke. We are going to have a game,'" said Shadle Park football head coach Jim Mace.
In the Greater Spokane League, volleyball games will start Feb. 23, football will begin Feb. 27, girls soccer, provided the region stays in Phase 2, will start Mar. 1, and cross country, which can happen regardless of the phase the region is in, will begin Mar. 6.
Thousands of people have been waiting for this announcement for the over ten months that high school sports have been suspended in the state, and that wait was anything but easy.
"A lot of ups and downs. Just, praying a lot, honestly," said McKenna.
Of course, high school sports will look a bit different this year with shorter seasons and no state championships, but compromising is absolutely worth it in the eyes of those affected.
"I told the kids when we talked about everything that could potentially happen with masks and all these different things, when it all said and done, I think that’s a good sacrifice in order to play football. I think overall people are on board with that," said Mace.
There is also a possibility for the region to slide back into Phase 1 over the coming months, thus suspending competition for medium and high-risk sports.
This year, more than ever, every contest is being seen as a blessing.
"We have to treat every game, which is one of those classic coaching clichés, but it is the most important game because you don’t know if it’s your last game. We’re going to try to channel that and challenge the kids and challenge ourselves each week to really get after it and enjoy it and hopefully win. But, at the end of the day, if we can say, ‘Hey it was a great experience,’ we’ll take it. Whether that means one game, seven games, two games," said Mace.