This will not be the Class 2A South Puget Sound League that Eatonville remembers. Not even close.
There were eight schools in the 2A SPSL the year after Eatonville left. There will be 16 schools when Eatonville rejoins it ahead of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s newly implemented four-year classification cycle.
Eatonville, which competed in the 1A Nisqually League following the 2011-12 school year and then joined the 1A Evergreen Conference for the 2014-2015 year, officially returns to the SPSL next year. That is, if it’s even still called the 2A SPSL.
“We’re really looking forward to getting some rivalries going again,” Eatonville athletic director George Fairhart said. “No matter what it all looks like.”
Athletic directors will meet Thursday to decide how to best split those 16 schools into two divisions and what they’ll call the league.
How has the 2A SPSL most changed? When Eatonville left, it added Orting, then it lost Sumner to the 3A SPSL two years later (next year it will be in the 4A SPSL), but the league added River Ridge.
Next year the 2A SPSL will not only add Eatonville and Foss, but also Evergreen of Seattle, Foster, Highline, Lindbergh, Renton and Tyee — formerly of the 3A/2A Seamount League.
The latter six schools were accepted Friday, but under the condition that they couldn’t all be part of one division. Three will be placed into one division, and the other three into the other, Orting athletic director Marty Parkhurst said.
Tyee doesn’t have a football program, instead combining with Mount Rainier High School. So whichever division adds Tyee will have only five football programs, while the other division has six.
“It was shocking,” Parkhurst said of the decision to add the Seamount schools. “I don’t think we were thrilled, but we have to think big picture, what’s best for the district. We just want to get it done Thursday because we really have to start scheduling fall sports.”
It’s likely Eatonville, Orting and White River will be in the same division. And it’s likely River Ridge, Clover Park and Steilacoom will be together. Franklin Pierce and Washington will stay together (both are part of the Franklin Pierce School District), which leaves Fife, Foss and the Seamount schools.
Foss will join from the 3A Narrows, which will no longer exist. It currently opts up to 3A from the 2A classification, but based on WIAA enrollment figures for the 2016-2020 enrollment cycle, Foss would still be the third-smallest school in the 2A SPSL ahead of Orting and Steilacoom.
As important as it was for Foss to preserve its rivalries with Lincoln, Mt. Tahoma and Wilson, it was more important for it to be competitive in all sports, athletic director Marc Powers said.
“I think people are understanding why we are moving down, but the big concern is losing those rivalries that have been in place for so long,” Powers said. “But there is a time for change. Some coaches haven’t been happy about this decision, but the main concern was with the overall sports competitiveness at our school.
“We want our students to have an athletic experience where they have a chance to win or even a chance to compete.”
The new league will also rekindle a rivalry between Eatonville and Orting — one that started about a century ago, Fairhart said.
“We’ve always tried to keep that alive,” Fairhart said. “We schedule each other as much as possible, so we’re really looking forward to being in the same league as them again and to have those games mean a little more.”
INTRODUCING THE 3A SSC
It’s decided: Eight 3A schools in the West Central District will comprise the 3A South Sound Conference next year.
The 3A SSC will include Capital, Central Kitsap, Gig Harbor, North Thurston, Peninsula, Shelton, Timberline and Yelm.
That after the WCD’s slated 16 Class 3A schools split into two eight-team leagues. The other eight (Bethel, Bonney Lake, Lakes, Lincoln, Mt. Tahoma, Spanaway lake, Stadium and Wilson) will comprise the Pierce County League.
Currently, the two 3A leagues in the WCD are the 3A Narrows League and the 3A SPSL.