Mountlake Terrace’s preference for Saturday football playoff game prevails over Friday option

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Edmonds School District athletic director Julie Stroncek
Edmonds School District athletic director Julie Stroncek

Usually football sees its strategic maneuvers played out on the field of play. But the gamesmanship between this week’s prep playoff opponents Mountlake Terrace and Capital began in the school and district athletic directors’ offices even before the two teams began their week of practices leading up to the game.

The Mountlake Terrace Hawks and the Capital Cougars collide on Saturday, Nov. 8, in a 3A District playoff game at Ingersoll Stadium in Olympia. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

This is the fifth time in six years that Terrace (7-2 overall) has qualified for a district round game in the 3A playoffs; the Hawks are 0-4 in their previous appearances. They will face a Capital squad that went 6-1 in the tough 3A division of the Narrows League – their only league loss to the undefeated Lincoln Abes. The Cougars finished the 2014 regular season 7-2 overall, averaging 26.8 points per game while giving up only 11.9 points per game.

But before the Hawks and the Cougars meet on the field, a time and date for the game had to be set and that turned out to be somewhat of a battle itself.

The loser-out game is one of four games (as of Nov. 3) in the District schedule that will be played on Saturday. The District guidelines call for games to be played on Saturday unless a mutual agreement is reached between schools to play on Friday. Capital High School athletic director Steve Bellande was ready to pursue that agreement, but Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds School District officials were not interested in that deal.

Stadium availability, SAT tests, potential ticket revenue, and the prospect of dealing with Puget Sound Friday night traffic all played a part in the drama of scheduling the Terrace-Capital football game.

The Capital Cougars share a stadium with the Olympia Bears, who have qualified for the 4A District playoffs. “Olympia has their playoff game scheduled for Saturday night, so I wanted to schedule ours for Friday night,” Bellande said.

Even before Bellande was able to notify Edmonds School District athletic department officials that he preferred a Friday night matchup between Mountlake Terrace and Capital, Edmonds School District athletic director Julie Stroncek was on the phone consulting with Terrace football coach Tony Umayam concerning the game’s scheduling.

When it comes to playoff game scheduling, “My first call is to the coach to see what he would prefer,” Stroncek said.

Stroncek got an inkling that there might be an issue with scheduling the Terrace-Capital game when she saw on a media website on Saturday that Olympia had already grabbed the Nov. 8, 7 p.m. start time at Ingersoll Stadium. She anticipated a call from Capital High School and a request to play the Hawk-Cougar game on Friday.

“Ninety-nine percent of football coaches prefer to play on Friday – Friday night lights, and all,” Stroncek said.

But in this case Stroncek was ready to push back and have the game scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

“I referenced the quad district guidelines that call for the games to be played on Saturday,” Stroncek said of the discussion that occurred in the expected phone call from Bellande.

Kim Stewart, the Mountlake Terrace High School athletic director, said that Stroncek was strongly insistent with Bellande regarding the guidelines calling for the game to be played on Saturday. “She came out with guns a blazing,” Stewart said.

“You don’t mess with an athletic director that always wanted to be a detective,” he added.

Bellande cited numerous reasons why Capital wanted the game scheduled for Friday night. “(We) didn’t want to play on Saturday (afternoon) because kids are taking SAT’s and some have college visits scheduled,” he said. Bellande also was worried that gate receipts from a Saturday afternoon game might be down due to competing college football games.

But Terrace and Edmonds School District officials argued that student athletes should be aware of the potential conflicts between fall SAT tests and the fall sports playoff season, and that a Terrace-Capital football game played on Saturday could potentially raise more money in ticket sales, not less.

Umayam said gate receipts played a big part in the game ultimately being scheduled for Saturday. “I believe the decision was made based on the potential increase in the gate by more Terrace supporters able to make the trip, avoiding Friday night rush hour through Seattle and Tacoma,” he said.

The game was set for Saturday with a 1 p.m. kickoff to allow for the teams and their fans to clear out of Ingersoll Stadium well ahead of the 7 p.m. Olympia-Newport matchup.

Other 3A District games scheduled for Saturday include two Seattle schools making long bus trips to their games: Garfield travels down to Vancouver to play Columbia River at 1 p.m., and Lakeside crosses over the Narrows Bridge in Tacoma to play at Peninsula at 7 p.m.

If Terrace grabs a victory over Capital on Saturday, scheduling their next game in the first round of the state championships shouldn’t be as big an issue due to the proximity of their potential opponent; the Hawks would face the winner of the Seattle Prep – Marysville-Pilchuck matchup on either Nov, 14 or 15 at a site-to-be-determined.

– By Doug Petrowski

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