In July, much of the local Washington sports media was on a conference call with the WIAA. The purpose was to announce that fall sports would be moved to spring of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I believe it was Mick Hoffman, the executive director of the WIAA, who said he couldn’t wait to return to discussing, arguing and debating about the minutiae of the basketball RPI formula, or the rhyme and reason behind state football tournament seeding selections.
I was reminded of what he said this past weekend when I was standing outside at chilly, windy Central Kitsap Stadium, fingers numb from the cold breezes, waiting impatiently for the referees to show up so that night’s football game with North Kitsap could get going.
It was a long night covering a contest filled with penalties, whistles and stoppages. And on top of that, it started 20 minutes late.
I loved every minute of it.
It’s going to be a strange year for all prep sports in the area. The schedule has been shortened by weeks, it’s filled with unfamilar teams for many, and there’s no real postseason to work toward.
And although I’m sure it’s disappointing for our high school athletes, especially the seniors, to miss out on the great things that come with the longer season and the postseason — more, and longer, bus rides, overnight trips to state, hanging out in hotel rooms — but an abbreviated season is better than none at all. And getting a chance to compete has been worth the wait.
“Oh yeah, it was awesome,” North Kitsap senior linebacker Cache Holmes said following his team’s come-from-behind win last weekend.
The same can be said for the reporters.
I’ve spent years doing both sports and news, and I can safely say I prefer the struggle on the gridrion over the battle in the city council chamber. Over the past year, I’ve had the honor to cover a number of important COVID-related stories, but I know I feel most at home watching two great hoops teams sprint up and down the court.
Holmes’s quote pretty well encapsulates how I felt to be there covering the game; how I felt to once again be wowed by talented athletes; how it felt to see 70-yard touchdown passes, big hits and the thrill of a late game-winning score.
This past week has been a celebration of that, silly as that may seem, for sports nerds like myself. There is no better way to spend time away from the field than rewatching livestreams, scouring the Internet for statistics and seeing results go out in real time over Twitter. Late Friday (and occassionally Saturday) nights are spent finishing up stories and editing photos in the vain hope of getting to bed at a decent hour.
And like the student-athletes, I will most certainly miss the postseason. District and state tournaments often take me away from Kitsap County, giving me a chance to see new towns, check out restaurants and parks, and see teams from outside of our coverage area. There’s nothing quite like heading to Yakima or the Tacoma Dome in early March and having some of the best basketball players in the state all under one roof.
But it is always best to be grateful for what you have. And on Saturday night, I watched as Central Kitsap opened up a 25-13 lead with a combination of power running and vertical passing. I saw Kalai Pasi throw an incredible deep ball that fell into Chandler Lindstrom’s hands as he stayed at full speed. I witnessed Colton Bower answer that with a fourth-quarter, 61-yard TD to bring his team within a score. I saw Bower showcase his versatility by coming away with an interception on the next drive. And finally, I was in perfect position beyond the corner of the endzone as Zeke Harris took the option pitch and scampered into the end zone with nary a finger laid on him to tie the game with just over 90 seconds to go.
Oh yeah, it was awesome.
— Mark Krulish is a sports reporter and columnist for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.