Playoff football is tough. Yet, North Thurston High School’s team has endured challenges this playoff season that go beyond playing tough opponents.
The Class 3A state quarterfinal game Saturday in Spokane against University High marks the second consecutive week the Rams travel east of the mountains for a playoff game.
After Saturday’s game, the Rams will have traveled 1,160 miles round trip for two playoff games – from Lacey to Kennewick and back for last weekend’s first-round game at Kennewick, and from Lacey to Spokane and back for the game against University.
The team is scheduled to leave around 7 a.m. Saturday to make the 325-mile trip to Spokane on a charter bus with planned stops in Ellensburg and Moses Lake for breaks, a meal and a walk-through. The game has been pushed back one hour to 5 p.m. to allow more time for the team to travel across Snoqualmie Pass safely.
Coach Rocky Patchin, in his 21st season with the Rams, said making it a fun atmosphere and good experience for the players has been a top priority. And while the experience of long road trips has been a first for some players, the cost of two consecutive trips across the state is quickly adding up.
Rich Yelenich, athletic director for North Thurston Public Schools, said the district received a quote of $2,800 for the charter bus used for the players, coaches and other school personnel for the game in Kennewick. The district does not pay for meals, regardless of what level of playoffs the teams are in; meals are picked up by the schools, a booster club account or ASB account, Yelenich said. He also said total cost for the trips won’t be known until they are completed.
Dan Clark, North Thurston’s athletic director, said most of the money spent has come from fundraisers, while parents and others have donated food and beverages.
“We’re living off that right now,” Clark said. “It’s a financial burden, but it’s something you have to deal with. Financially it hurts, but there are some things that are positives.”
Yelenich added the most expensive trips east of the mountains the school district previously had was when the River Ridge boys and girls basketball teams qualified for the 2A state tournament in Yakima from 2009-11.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports