No lines or numbers are painted in the grass at the Life Christian Academy football team’s practice field. It’s goal-line defense practiced with its backs against a hill.
To its credit, this field is actually a baseball field. Life Christian rents Franklin Park, but plays its games at either Curtis High School or Harry Lang Stadium. Coach Jess Nelson helps scour the grass beforehand to make sure it’s safe to play on.
“It’s uh … it’s definitely a different setting than a lot of different teams’ fields,” Eagles senior Mike McKay said.
“But I’ve been coming out here since I was a freshman and I’m just happy to be out there, as a senior captain, just playing here like I saw all the big guys do when I was a freshman.”
There’s isn’t much that appears glamourous about this team.
Life Christian graduated its starting quarterback, running back, wide receiver and two-way lineman – all who were first-team 2B Pacific all-league selections on the Eagles state playoff team. The Eagles are members of an expanded 2B Pacific football league this year, playing in the Mountain division.
Nelson doesn’t mind if you have questions.
“I have those same questions,” Nelson said. “I have a lot of questions, too.”
McKay has never played quarterback in a game before. But he will this year.
He was a wing back last year in the Eagles’ pistol spread offense, earning all-league honors as an all-purpose player. He had 32 carries for 231 yards, 17 catches for 276 yards and four total touchdowns.
Not until this year. He didn’t find out until about a week before the season started after an injury to Will VanderFeltz.
“It’s been a dream of mine,” McKay said. “Russell Wilson is a guy I really look up to, and I’m just really looking forward to going out there and having a good time playing with my teammates and going out and winning some games.”
Stephen Woomer shouldn’t be at running back. He has never played there.
But that’s why he shouldn’t be there. Woomer was born with a heart defect. He was missing a wall between his left and right ventricle, he said, and his heart was pumping blood into his lungs, but nothing was pumping it out.
He had to fly to Cleveland for surgery when he was six months old, but it was patched up and all that’s left is a stress test he’s had to take every couple of years. And now he’s a three-sport athlete, ASB president and about to fulfill his dream as Life Christian’s starting running back.
“I started as a sophomore and it had always been a dream of mine to play football,” Woomer said.
He’ll be one of the replacements for since-graduated Wyatt Dunlap, who ran for 45 touchdowns combined over the past two seasons.
Go ahead and question this practice field, this team, these returners, their positions. Nelson is too.
Life Christian opens its season against Concrete at 7 p.m. Friday at Curtis High School, hoping to begin its return quest to the 2B state playoffs after last year losing to Pe-Ell/Willapa Valley.
“I’m excited to get some answered tomorrow,” Nelson said.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677