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Knights to suit up for 8-man football

Get ready for some football, Sunnyside Christian fans, as the Knights will take to the gridiron starting with the 2009 season.

That was the overwhelming outcome Monday night of a vote by more than 100 members of the Sunnyside Christian School Society, a network of school supporters.

Eight-man football will replace boys soccer as a fall sport because of foreseen soccer scheduling difficulties in 2009, says Athletic Director Dean Wagenaar.

"What is occurring is we have lost some (league soccer) teams in the fall. Some other schools are considering football," Wagenaar says. Trout Lake/Glenwood, for example, is considering more soccer matches against Oregon schools, which are closer geographically.

All of that led to discussions about football dating as far back as a year ago.

"It's not about choosing one sport over the other. The fact is the future of a fall soccer league in 2009 didn't look like it was going to continue," Wagenaar adds, noting that would have meant soccer matches in Spokane or Seattle. "We wanted to be proactive."

Research over the past year led to this week's decision. The past year has also been put to work in raising equipment funds in the event football became reality. Wagenaar said the target was to raise $30,000 and much of it has already been generated.

The groundwork has also included talks with Sunnyside and Grandview high schools to use their football fields for Knight home games on Friday nights.

"Our goal after visiting with Sunnyside and Grandview will be to, as much as possible, play Friday night under the lights," says Wagenaar.

Eight-man football features a wide-open attack in which teams routinely ring up 40 points by halftime. "It's like arena football, in that sense," Wagenaar notes. "The kids are looking forward to it."

Sunnyside Christian will likely begin play as an independent team. Other B schools playing the 8-man game in Central Washington include Lyle, Tri-City Prep, Jubilee Christian, Touchet and Thorp/Easton.

As anticipation builds with Sunnyside Christian gearing up for football-picking out helmets and uniforms-Wagenaar is aware losing boys soccer after the swan season of 2008 represents the end of a tradition.

"We've had boys soccer since at least very close to the inception of the high school in the mid-1980s," he notes. "There's a lot of excitement, but it's obviously a tough situation right now."

Wagenaar adds, though, football fever is running rampant among Sunnyside Christian school youth, especially with high turnouts in the lower grades.

"There are a lot of boys with interest in football," he says. "The NFL has done a good job marketing the sport to young people."

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