(With more than 55 years as an athlete, coach, official, parent and spectator, I’ve gained some insights and perspectives regarding athletics. In this weekly column, I share what I’ve learned about sports from these multiple points of view.)
The consequence of forfeiting
In my mind, the decision to forfeit the Sept. 29 Far West League football game against North Bend will have a lasting effect on Siuslaw High School athletics, its fans and the Florence community.
The main reason given from school administrators was for player safety.
Back in 1975, I was coaching for Spray High School at a game in Heppner, Ore. Before the game, the opposing coach explained that 17 of his 19 players were freshmen. In contrast, my team of 13 players had eight juniors and seniors. As a result, I agreed to make sure not to pound his team into the ground.
The first quarter score was 27-0 Spray; the final score was also 27-0.
I have to wonder if any communication took place between head coaches at Siuslaw and North Bend prior to the decision by Siuslaw to forfeit.
Football is a collision sport. I played football, as do many other players, to test my physical and mental toughness. I did not play for a championship that would never happen.
My Warrenton High School football team was a small fish in a big pond. In fact, all teams in the Cowapa League were larger, with some literally three times the size of our 201-member student body.
We played outmanned every game and got our victories from within ourselves — and every now and then we’d upset a superior opponent.
One team we did not upset was Rainier. Their mascot was still doing push-ups after we showered and were boarding the bus to travel home.
I did a little digging and discovered we were in the same classification as Siuslaw High School while I was playing at Warrenton. It would not have been fun to play Siuslaw back then — but we would have suited up and given it our best effort.
One of the reasons given for Siuslaw’s forfeit was the concern that upperclassmen from North Bend would dominate and possibly injure our younger players.
Just up the road, Mapleton and many eight man football teams regularly use freshmen to fill out their rosters. When a senior quarterback at Mapleton was injured in a game two weeks ago, the Sailors’ back-up freshman quarterback entered the game and scored two times in that game.
In 1976, my Spray Eagles traveled to take on Crane High School. Crane was a boarding school that routinely won our league. Our 13 players — including three freshmen and two sophomores — watched as 48 Crane players lined the opposite sideline. Their team had 36 upperclassmen. We battled and lost by 14 points.
From my perspective, the players on that small Spray team deserved to play for the possibility — however slight — of winning.
Which they did on the toughness scale.
So what happens now at Siuslaw? What lessons have been learned from forfeiting?
The players are the ones who lost and they cannot get it back and, in the process, I feel other football players in the Far West League have lost respect for Siuslaw.
Many past Siuslaw football players are shaking their heads and asking “Why? For Safety?”
No, not good enough.
Unless you have played football, you will never understand the never-say-die attitude of the underdog.
In my lifetime, I played 13 years of football and worked no less than four hazardous jobs without suffering a serious injury.
Coincidentally, I slipped on my front step seven years ago and broke my ankle.
Maybe I should move to a house without a front step, just for safety reasons?