EDITORIAL: Wildcats play in Mount Vernon

Oak Harbor can be proud again this year of its Wildcats football team, which clinched the Wesco North league title Friday night with a win at Monroe. Coach Dave Ward’s team advances to the playoffs for the second consecutive year, a feat that is incredibly difficult to achieve in a league that includes the perennially powerful Snohomish Panthers.

This renaissance of Oak Harbor football comes after some 20 years of mostly also-ran seasons in which the team battled valiantly but just didn’t have the depth of talent needed to finish on top. The Wildcats’ recent success is a testament not only to good coaching and solid athletes, but a youth football feeder program that pumps experienced players into the system. If this keeps up, Oak Harbor could be a contender for years to come.

It is unfortunate that the team’s recent success coincides with the final days of historic Memorial Stadium. Last year only a single playoff game could be held there because of its deteriorating condition. This year it has completely deteriorated as the stands had to be closed for safety reasons, and no playoff games can be held here.

Instead, the first playoff game will be played at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, at Mount Vernon. Considering the situation, this is good news. Last year the Wildcats played their “home” playoff game at distant Mariner High School. The trip to Mount Vernon is much shorter, and more Oak Harborites should be able to attend. We also have more in common with Mount Vernon than Mukilteo, thus the Nov. 11 encounter will have more of a “home” game feel.

But nothing beats actually playing your home playoff games at home. The excitement of a packed home stadium can’t be duplicated elsewhere, and the playoff spirit infects the entire town. It’s good for the high school and the community.

The school district’s Stadium Team will soon make its recommendation to the school board on how to improve or replace Memorial Stadium. There are several options and the final decision will not be a easy one. But the community should support it, whatever it is. The process was open, the community was widely involved, and we should all rally behind the school board’s ultimate decision.

That way, we can all stay home to cheer when the Wildcats make the playoffs for the third consecutive season in 2004.

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