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Grant, Adams counties moving to Phase 2 opens possibility for competition for high school athletes

by CASEY MCCARTHY
Staff Writer | February 15, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — The move of North Central and Eastern Washington Regions to Phase 2 of the state’s reopening process provides hope for the return of athletic competition for the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Season 1.

Competitions are now allowed for all sports up to moderate risk level with limited capacities for spectators.

High-risk activities can begin practices and training, but only intra-team competition is allowed.

NCW Region football teams will start practicing on Wednesday. Most teams will kick off the season the following weekend.

Warden High School head football coach Robert Arredondo said the feeling of moving to Phase 2 is like “holding your breath and finally getting to exhale a bit.”

“A little bit of normalcy comes over every football coach now, as normal as we can get it,” Arredondo said. “Obviously, I was happy to hear that.”

Arredondo said now there is a concrete schedule and a clear goal to work toward, with competition on the horizon.

For football players, he said the opportunity to compete at the club level or in out-of-state tournaments is more limited than it is for other sports, such as baseball or softball. Making the most of the high school season will be huge, especially for seniors looking to move on to the next level.

“Some of these guys may have a chance to play on, and this is their last year out, so that focus is ramped up with a clear picture of what we have to do now,” Arredondo said. “We go in on the 16th and start going to work.”

With the shortened season, there will be five or six weeks to make things happen. With a hyper-shortened preseason, he said, the focus is on fundamentals.

“You’ve got 10 days before the first Friday night, and that’s what we’ll do, focus on fundamentals,” Arredondo said.

The benefits of the return of high school competitions go beyond the players and coaches, he said. Having sports back helps the community.

“A lot of texts, calls from community members, friends excited to, maybe not attend, but have watercooler talk,” Arredondo said. “It’s Monday morning quarterback talk again. That’s just kind of what it is, and I think that’s a huge part of football. And in this time now, even more so.”

Royal High School senior Caleb Christensen will return to the field after helping the Knights capture the 1A State Championship as a junior. Christensen said having a chance to compete one last time is exciting and something he and his fellow seniors have been preparing for for a long time.

“There were a couple of times where we weren’t sure, it kind of looked like things weren’t going to happen,” Christensen said. “But I’m glad they got it all together and happy we’re able to play. Ready to get to work. We’re all really excited for it.”

There will be no postseason. But, Christensen said, competing against bigger 4A schools offers an exciting challenge in itself.

He said he expects the competition will be quicker, and he knows his team will need to bring its best to compete.

“This year we’re just trying to go get it. We only have five games, so we’re just trying to make the most of it,” Christensen said.

He and his fellow seniors have been getting some work in during the offseason, but not every day. He said it is going to be exciting to finally get the whole team together again for practice.

Casey McCarthy can be reached via email at cmccarthy@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald

Warden head football coach Robert Arredondo poses for a photo at the high school field on Friday afternoon in Warden.

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Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald Caleb Christensen steps back to pass during the first half of the 1A State Championship on Saturday afternoon.