The West Valley High School football team’s preseason activities remain suspended due to the ongoing investigation of a swimming accident that occurred during an optional preseason team activity, which sent three West Valley High School students to the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital on Friday.
West Valley players may have to partake in preseason practices with Eielson or another nearby team in order to stay eligible to compete in their first scheduled game against Wasilla on Aug. 16.
Alaska School Activities Association rules state, “All players must have ten (10) separate days of physical practice in the same sport activity prior to the 1st day of competition,” and, “In order to qualify as practice the student must participate in at least an hour of physical activity.”
The first official day of preseason and the first day that teams can complete an official practice is Wednesday. Any practices between May 20 and Wednesday have been allowed as long as they haven’t been mandatory. Aug. 6, a week from today, is the latest date the team could begin their official practices and still complete all 10 sessions before the game against Wasilla.
“My suggestion, when I did speak with the school district, is that they consider having another program’s coaching staff run practices for West Valley until they make the determination of what they are going to do with that coaching staff,” Billy Strickland, executive director of ASAA, told the News-Miner by phone Monday.
“It would be allowable if the Eielson staff came and conducted some practices for the West Valley students because often times within the first several days of practice, you are doing some installations with your offense and defense, but you are also going back and reviewing a bunch of fundamentals that don’t really change a lot program to program. The correct way to tackle is the correct way to tackle, whether you are an Eielson kid or a West Valley kid.”
Eielson head football coach David DeVaughn told the News-Miner, “I would be as helpful as I possibly could,” in regards to helping run practices for the West Valley student-athletes. As of 4 p.m. Monday afternoon, DeVaughn had not heard from West Valley about any practice coordination.
The News-Miner is still waiting on a response from the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, regarding any efforts to reschedule preseason practices.
If the West Valley team does not complete all 10 practices prior to Aug. 16, they would not be permitted to play their first game against Wasilla or any game until they are completed. Strickland was not sure if missing those games would result in forfeits or if they would simply be canceled. However, in regards to postseason qualification, it would likely have little effect. West Valley does not play a conference game until Sept. 20 against Palmer, and only conference games are taken into account when qualifying for the postseason, giving the team more time to regroup after the conclusion of the investigation.
Strickland said no rescheduling would be made in order to accommodate the situation other than canceling games.
“It’s really hard to adjust the football schedule because we have so limited teams,” he said. “We have 28 schools that play, so basically everybody is playing someone else and when you put together the schedule it’s like a house of cards. You start picking at it and the whole thing falls apart.”
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.