Bleary-eyed after their nearly six-hour road trip from small-town Colville, Wash. to Renton, players from Colville High School's football team emerged from their busses. Dressed in a variety of maroon and grey athletic gear, the team quietly filed into Virginia Mason Athletic Center's indoor practice facility. With a kind of quiet confidence, the Colville Indians were less than 24 hours from playing in the State Championships at the Tacoma Dome.
Amid the bright lights of VMAC, the Seahawks welcome championship teams to the facility every year – this time hosting Colville High School one day of the week and Eastside Catholic High School on another day leading up to this past weekend's Gridiron Classic. While the two teams couldn't be more different – different cities, different divisions, different strategies – both enjoyed the Seahawks' support going into the pinnacle of the high school football season.
Through partnerships with local high schools and this year's "Blue Friday Night Lights" program that brought elements of the Seahawks' gameday experience to high school football communities, the Seahawks have a long history of supporting youth football in the area. Welcoming various teams to VMAC is just a small part the Seahawks play in helping and supporting teams through the championship week.
Paul Johns, the Seahawks' director of youth and high school football programs, coordinated this year's visits with Colville and Eastside Catholic and touched on the importance of supporting the young athletes.
"For us to show our support to the high school football programs by allowing them to come and practice in our facility, it means a lot to us," Johns said. "It also means a lot for these high school kids, because they can come see a professional facility, practice inside, and it means a lot to all parties involved."
Colville coach Randy Cornwell especially appreciated the facility, noting that the harsh indoor lights, turf, and loud music were all elements that they were going to face inside the Tacoma Dome. He added, that the VMAC provided them a "perfect environment, facility, and it satisfied every need that [they] had to prepare for the state championship game."
A few days prior, Eastside Catholic also enjoyed their support from the Seahawks, running through a fun and lively practice in preparation for its championship game. Having played in a "Blue Friday Night Lights" game against O'Dea earlier this season, the Eastside Catholic team had already experienced Sea Gals and Blue Thunder performances, visited with team mascots Blitz and Boom, and even met Seattle running back J.D. McKissic, but practicing at VMAC was the cherry on top.
"We're making sure that we're preparing for the big game coming up. It means a lot to have this experience to go here, it's really cool," said senior Jason Medeiros.
With the high school football championship stage set, both Colville and Eastside Catholic dominated at the Tacoma Dome, with Colville winning 48-7 over Newport and Eastside Catholic winning 31-13 against O'Dea. The wins granted Colville its first program title, and Eastside Catholic's third title in five seasons.