In light of a stellar season last year, the Bainbridge High School football team was recently advanced to the more competitive Sound Division of the 3A Metro League.
The revelation marks a major turning point the previously struggling program, which was just last year included among the ranks of a newly created third division within Metro, the Valley Division. The adjustment, hailed by school officials at the time, promised to effectively level the football playing field for the Spartans, who had historically struggled to compete against the selective programs at Seattle private schools.
The creation of the Valley Division guaranteed Bainbridge would no longer be forced to compete against such powerhouse programs as Eastside Catholic, O’Dea or Bishop Blanchet early on.
The Metro Sound Division also consists of Ballard, Blanchet, Cleveland, Liberty, Nathan Hale and West Seattle.
The Metro Mountain Division consists of Eastside Catholic, Garfield, O’Dea, Rainier Beach, Roosevelt and Seattle Prep. The Valley Division consists of Chief Sealth, Franklin, Ingraham, Lakeside and Sammamish high schools.
Last year was a high-water mark all around for BHS football.
“Football has a long and storied history here on our island,” said BHS Head Coach Jeff Rouser, who replaced longtime island football figure and former Spartan Head Coach Andy Grimm in 2016.
“When we inherited this football program three years ago, BHS had not won a conference game in several years and would-be players were going to other activities,” Rousser said. “And while the local interest in the NFL … and major college football … was maybe at an all-time high, football on the island was probably at an all-time low.”
As Bainbridge’s advancement in the league would indicate, that’s no longer the case, according to the coach.
“The state of high school football is rapidly moving in a very positive direction and there’s been a big resurgence happening with football on the island,” he said. “Last year [resulted] in our winning our division and we made the playoffs for the first time in many years. We had a high powered offense that ran up numbers placing us among the top offenses in the state, we completely dominated our division, and now the team has been moved up in the conference for 2019 and beyond.”
Spring Ball is set to begin Friday, May 31 and run through Tuesday, June 18, approximately, and already Rousser said this season is shaping up in a promising way — on and off the field.
“Most significantly we have changed the face of football in the community,” he said. “We have increased our roster, we are filling the stadium, and have increased scholarships for our student athletes to the next level. And already this season, we are seeing some a surge of really great young athletes coming out for our program.”
“I am constantly running into folks all around town, in the grocery store, at restaurants, on the ferry, when hiking in our forests … telling me what a difference they are seeing and how this program is back,” he added. “It’s a lot of fun to be around.”