SVSJ commentary: Year one back in Wesco for Cedarcrest High School sports went as expected, so now what?

The 2018-19 school year is fast coming to a close, and with it comes the end of the first season for Cedarcrest High School back in the Wesco Conference following a long, 20-plus year association with the Cascade Conference, which dissolved prior to the start of this school year necessitating the Red Wolves’ move to Wesco. And this has been, as was expected, an interesting year to say the least for Cedarcrest.

When this move was announced early in 2018, we opined at that time that the school would see mixed results from the move, that some programs would be able to compete, others not so. And as it turned out, that was the case pretty much along the lines we expected it would go. Programs such as soccer, basketball and softball, all of whom we anticipated would be challenged but would hold their own in the new league, did all right while programs such as volleyball, which struggled in the old Cascade Conference, would find the going challenging. There was one surprise – baseball, but we’ve told you some of the other factors that were at play there and we trust the Red Wolves will address those issues in the offseason and be back to competitive levels next season.

Football, of course, was the linchpin of the move to Wesco and they fared a bit better this past fall within the new Northwest consortium, but the school as you know made a coaching change this offseason, hiring ex-UW Husky great John Fiala to take over the program after Billy Ojeda was let go following last season. It seems as if the program is making some strides already under the new coaching staff, so it’s certainly hoped things will be better for them moving forward.

And that’s what this commentary revolves around. This first year for CHS back in Wesco we think probably opened some eyes to what the school and its various programs will need to do on many fronts in order to become more competitive within a much tougher Wesco landscape. And the reality of the situation is is that people need to wake up and pay attention now, because the question of long-term league affiliation will be front and center this coming school year for CHS as they and the Wesco folks determine whether a continued relationship will be in the best interests for both the school and the league.

As things stand currently, it is our belief that a long-term arrangement with the conference makes the most sense for Cedarcrest and the Riverview School District. However, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association recently passed a rule change that could provide the school with an option that we feel could make even more sense for the school. This rule change, passed by the association’s membership this spring, allows for large schools such as Cedarcrest to request to be moved down a classification in football only. Were CHS to apply for such a waiver, have it granted and be dropped down from 2A to 1A, it could help in the near term for the Red Wolves as they work to grow the numbers in the program under new coach Fiala, which have struggled in recent years. A drop down, and the resulting separation of football from other sports at the school in relation to league alignment, could also open the door for Cedarcrest to petition for membership in the Kingco Conference for the non-football sports as a 2A member.

We believe, but are not sure, the prevailing view of folks supporting Red Wolves sports would be for the programs to be part of Kingco as opposed to Wesco. Geography is not the only factor we think would drive this sentiment, if such exists, but there is also the added component of the school and community’s youth sports programs that feed players into Cedarcrest’s programs largely playing opponents that for the most part feed players into Kingco high schools as opposed to Wesco. So there’s a known quantity there for everyone and that also is a help for sure. But because of Kingco’s desire, which we discussed as part of our previous coverage, to have its 2A members with limited exceptions play a league football schedule (read: against Bellevue) as opposed to within the Northwest 2A consortium, the decision was made by Cedarcrest to join Wesco instead. For the school in our view to join Kingco based on the current situation, one of the following we believe would need to occur:

-The school decides to split football from all other sports and seeks, and receives, a waiver to drop football to 1A

-Kingco merges the 3A and 4A leagues together, as has been discussed, with the 2A schools ending up playing with the Northwest consortium for football

-That merger doesn’t happen but the league chooses anyway to send the 2A’s north to play football

So as we discussed in our previous commentaries on this subject, once again the decisions for CHS will largely be made by outside forces, other actors so to speak. But the truth of the matter is this: Whether it’s Kingco or Wesco, the reality for Cedarcrest sports is that you all are competing with the “big boys and girls” now and it’s time for your programs, particularly your parent booster clubs, to act like them.

Increase your fundraising. Work harder to get business sponsorships for your teams. Expand your community outreach, particularly via social media. Cedarcrest’s football program has done a lot of this in the weeks since Fiala was hired. They now have a Twitter feed, an Instagram account and an active Facebook page. Under Ojeda, there was no Twitter or Instagram as far as we know and their Facebook wasn’t nearly as active as it’s been the past couple of weeks. The Red Wolve baseball, basketball and softball programs all are on Facebook, too (and girls’ hoops has an Instagram page also). Same for girls’ soccer. But we’d like to see more. Actual websites. Some programs are getting this message – basketball, girls’ soccer for example – but others need to join that crowd.

Coaches need to demand and parents need to embrace in those sports with a year-round component the idea that kids need to play club in the offseason. We see this as especially necessary with Red Wolve softball. If it means forming a rag-tag group with parents coaching the kids, let’s say in a U16 environment with a limited schedule of tournaments both locally and out of town, so be it. The point is you need the girls getting reps against high-quality opposition.

Essentially, the point we’re trying to make to all of you there in the lower Valley is that the days of small-town high school athletics are probably over. So it’s time to embrace life as a school competing against larger schools and do things to help your programs compete in that more challenging landscape.

Another thing we would suggest as we head into this summer would be for principal Ray LaBate and athletic director Jason Frederick to work with Red Wolve sports booster clubs to schedule informal parent meetings, let’s say in a cookout-type setting at a program family’s home, to gauge parent sentiment about the possible league alignment options and what parents would like to see CHS seek as it looks for long-term league membership. Knowing what your stakeholders would like will help Frederick and LaBate better look out for the interests of Cedarcrest student-athletes, interests which we feel were not protected at all with the length of the 2017-18 alignment discussions.

With that all said, it’s time to head into the summer, and we look forward to continued growth of CHS sports in Wesco this coming school year.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
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