As they practice, work out, run drills and win games, the players on the Anacortes High School football team are working to show the community one thing.
“There’s still football in Anacortes,” head coach Chris Hunter said.
The young team took a step back this year, electing not to complete a full varsity schedule, but that doesn’t mean football went away, he said.
This team is made up of 20 freshmen, 10 sophomores and four juniors. It is playing three varsity games but is focusing more on playing junior varsity teams while it grows for future seasons.
Last year, the AHS football squad was understaffed, and several players sat out at least one game due to injuries. So, when only a few older boys showed up to play this summer, Hunter decided to take a step back for a rebuilding year. Two AHS seniors are playing varsity ball for Mount Vernon instead.
Anacortes has been stuck in a cycle of fielding teams that are too young, Hunter said. Each year, the team has a large majority of underclassmen who get beaten down by teams with more older players. By the time they are juniors and seniors, they no longer want to play.
Pitting them against teams full of seniors with years more experience under their belts is just setting the team up to fail, Hunter said.
He hopes that by taking a step back this year, the team can give players a chance to remember why they love the sport and keep them healthy and happy enough to come back.
“We want to build this program,” Hunter said. “We can break the cycle and allow this young talent to grow and mature.”
This season, the Seahawks have already won two games, compared to none last year, and injuries are down. Results from Monday’s JV game were not available by press time.
Allowing players to learn the game and improve is more important that playing a full season of varsity games, Hunter said.
“We are focused on the game of football,” Hunter said, which means working on attitude and making sure every player gives it his all.
That work is showing on the field, Hunter said.
Joe Cutter, a junior and the team’s quarterback, said he was frustrated at first with the call to step away from the varsity schedule because he played a lot of varsity last year. That frustration soon faded, though.
“It’s more fun winning games than it is to be known as a varsity program,” he said. “This is really fun.”
That’s not something he had experienced since he was a freshman. And things keep looking brighter.
“Our team is getting better and better each week,” he said.
Sophomore Jack Schuh agreed.
“People didn’t expect much from us, and now we’re on a two-game winning streak,” he said.
Some of the lessons that come from football, like being a part of a team that feels more like a family and building character, are definitely still there this year, said sophomore Lucca Dumas and junior Brock Illston.
The team could use some more support as it continues to grow, though, Schuh said.
The team’s schedule means it plays most of its game on weekdays instead of Fridays, resulting in smaller crowds and fewer home games.
“Come out and watch us play,” said freshman Aiden John.
There will be plenty to see, especially as the team gets older, Cutter said.
“We’re only going to get better,” he said.
Another varsity-level game takes place at 7 p.m. Friday at home against Bellingham as part of the AHS homecoming celebration. Playing a home game on a Friday night brings with it something special, Hunter said.
Its third varsity game is at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, at Coupeville.