By Justin Gimse
Once summer begins to draw the closing curtains, many folks around the Puget Sound begin to lament the loss of the long days and unending heat. With the Puyallup Fair (I know it’s not called that anymore, deal with it) about to begin, that means historically we should immediately begin to see the rain falling from the sky. The two together are like peas and carrots. Throw in the end of season seven of “Game of Thrones,” and the outlook for the long, cold, gray fall and winter can really become a downer for many of us.
However, as I was walking out of the grocery store recently, the crisp, night air caught my attention. To the senses of this Tacoma kid, it didn’t smell like the end of summer to me.
It smelled like football.
While I truly enjoy the heat and long days of summer around Tacoma (when we can get it), the pain of heading into a season of possibly nasty weather is usually tempered by the arrival of perhaps the greatest sport to ever be invented. When the footballs begin flying through the air around these parts, the dog days of summer can quickly fade in the rearview mirror.
We have been spoiled with some outstanding Tacoma high school football teams the past few years. When the Stadium Tigers qualified for the postseason last year, for the first time in school history, you know the football gods have begun spending a little extra attention upon our area schools, and the prayers over the years are starting to pay off.
The high school football season encompasses nine weeks of gridiron glory, before the playoffs begin. It’s time to take a quick look at each of those weekends and find the choicest of matchups for Tacoma-area football fans.
Week 1 – Sept. 1 and 2:
The opening week or two of the high school football season often serves up some interesting non-league contests. You’re going to have to travel north to Husky Stadium at the University of Washington if you want to catch one of the best matchups throughout the state. The Lincoln Abes begin their 2017 campaign against the O’Dea Fighting Irish at 4 p.m. The Abes will not only be looking for some payback, following their state quarterfinal loss to O’Dea last year, but it’s going to give everyone a good look at where this state powerhouse stands, after losing some exceptional talent to graduation last spring.
Keeping it around town, the “Battle of the Vikings” will be going down over at Curtis High School when Puyallup pays a visit for the Friday, Sept. 1 kickoff at 7 p.m. It doesn’t matter what the sport is when these two schools clash. It’s serious Viking business.
Week 2 – Sept. 8 and 9:
Football fans can stay close to home to find the most enticing matchup for the second week of action. The Bellarmine Lions will head on over to Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood to take on the Lakes Lancers on Friday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. While Bellarmine is a 4A school and Lakes is at the 3A level, those are just numbers on a piece of paper in this matchup. Both teams are perennial state contenders and they will be sending out some exceptional athletes onto the field. An injury-plagued Lakes squad fell to Bellarmine last season. Speed is going to be the key in this game, and Lakes has a ton of it.
Week 3 – Sept. 15:
The third week is a bit of a toss-up, with several local teams playing on the road. If we’re going to pick just one, we’re going with the matchup between Fife and Foss at Mt. Tahoma Stadium at 7 p.m. Fife rolls out playoff-worthy teams on a yearly basis, while Foss looks like a program that is beginning to scratch and claw their way back to respectability. The Trojans will put Foss to the test, but don’t be surprised if the Falcons walk away with the win.
Week 4 – Sept. 22 and 23:
When Lincoln pays Lakes a visit to Harry Lang Stadium on Friday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m., the 3A Pierce County League championship picture is going to become much clearer. The Abes and Lancers clearly look like the league frontrunners, and something is going to have to give. This looks like a state playoff game a couple of months early.
Week 5 – Sept. 29 and 30:
This weekend is packed with great matchups, and we can’t decide upon just one. Bonney Lake will bring a potent squad to Stadium Bowl on Friday, Sept. 29 to face the Tigers at 7 p.m. Both teams made the playoffs last season, and both are hoping to continue that trend this season. Stadium is going to be airing the ball out, while Bonney Lake is going to smash away. It’s bound to be a good game. The Wilson Rams will face the Abes at Lincoln Bowl at the same time, and this game always carries a certain amount of bragging rights for the winners. Also at the same time, Bellarmine will be visiting Curtis in a game that will have major playoff implications.
Tacoma Baptist will host Evergreen Lutheran on Saturday, Sept. 30 at Curtis Viking Stadium at 7 p.m. The Crusaders went 10-1 last season in their first year of eight-man football. These two schools aren’t exactly crazy about each other, so be ready to watch the fur fly as the scoreboard operator is going to have his hands full.
This list would be incomplete if we didn’t include the matchup between University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University at Sparks Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1 p.m. The teams have split wins the past two seasons, and both games have been some of the best the series has seen in decades.
Week 6 – Oct. 6:
The sixth week is a bit of a question mark. On paper, in the preseason, it’s a bit of a stretch to see where these teams are going to stand after five weeks of action. However, if we’re picking one game, we’re going to go with the Foss versus Washington matchup out at Franklin Pierce Stadium on Friday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. Washington made the playoffs last season for the first time in decades, while Foss is looking to climb the ranks.
Week 7 – Oct. 13 and 14:
It’s a bit of an oddity when Stadium pays a visit to their own home field as a visitor, but that is what is going down on Friday, Oct. 13 as the Tiger fans will be sitting on the northern side. As Stadium Bowl is also the home of the Wilson Rams, this year it is the Rams’ turn to play the host. This game is going to go down as an instant classic. You read it here first.
Week 8 – Oct. 20:
State powerhouse Graham Kapowsin will be visiting Bellarmine on Friday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. This matchup should have major repercussions on the 4A South Puget Sound League standings, and with just one week remaining, it’s going to be a madhouse at Memorial Field. Bring your rain gear, we’re already predicting a wet one. Also, the matchup between Spanaway Lake and Mt. Tahoma at Mt. Tahoma Stadium at 7 p.m. should also go down to the wire, with both teams working hard to lift their respective programs out of the doldrums.
Week 9 – Oct. 27 and 28:
The oldest rivalry in Tacoma will be going down at Lincoln Bowl on Friday, Oct. 27, as the Stadium Tigers will face off against the Lincoln Abes at 7 p.m. The Tigers nabbed city bragging rights last season with their huge upset of the 3A PCL champion Abes. With both teams eventually ending up in the playoffs, this game feels like it could be the game of the year. Expect a chilly night and a huge crowd for this grudge match. Plan on heading to the game early to find parking.