Benched: NCHS student athletes struggle to find playing time during fall Covid-19 shutdown.

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Ryan Aceto, Sports Writer

In early October, senior Sam Lokeni travelled from his home to a school football field in Tacoma to take part in an unsanctioned football game organized by Ford Sport Performance for local high school football players to capture game film for the university recruiting process in violation of state Covid-19 regulations. 

Lokeni, a senior at North Creek High School, plays football for North Creek during the school year and also participates in Ford Sport Performance’s Trench Squad during the offseason. FSP’s Trench Squad is the lineman’s version of a 7 on 7 team. This Trench Squad has helped Sam Lokeni with extra practice year round to perfect his craft but that isn’t enough, he found himself in need of game film for this upcoming football season. 

“I chose to play in the FSP ID game because I needed film for college coaches to earn myself a scholarship,” said Lokeni. Lokeni is concerned that without recent film he may not be competitive in the college recruiting process. “Because this is my last year of high school ball, I needed the film and I thought the best way to get that was to show out against the best in Washington,” said Lokeni.

While some have been critical of FSP’s choice to have students play, for Lokeni it has been a benefit. 

“Lots of college coaches have been in contact with me since the ID game,” said Lokeni. 

Koli Faaiu, also a senior at North Creek High School, has been a part of FSP’s Trench Squad for the last several years and has also already committed to his dream school of Utah University back on June 3rd. Faaiu has been vocal in his support of allowing high school athletes to play during the Covid-19 shutdown. 

“It’s tough seeing all these people and all of the hard work they’ve put in through their highschool career, to then lose their season just like that. Especially the kids with no offers, this was their year to show colleges what they can do, but it was just stripped away from them,” said Faaiu. 

Faaiu has also been active in Student Athletes of Washington (SAW), an organization that is advocating for student athletes to be allowed to play. 

“SAW have been continuously reaching out to Gov. Inslee and the WIAA to spread awareness through facts and other evidence that other states are using to not only bring football back but all fall sports back safely rather than having them in the springtime. We’ve had zoom meetings and have marched on Olympia to get our point across and will continue until our voices are heard” said Faaiu. 

Like Faaiu, senior Carli Zanassi is counting on being able to play this season. Zanassi, who played softball all throughout the summer, still missed out on many opportunities because of Covid-19.  

“Our coach was very cautious and took our health and safety very seriously. We had about ⅓ of the practices we usually would and all of our summer tournaments were canceled. We’ve been lucky enough to find a couple tournaments but we missed out on most of the exposure tournaments for recruiting which was a major loss,” said Zanassi.

Even with the opportunity for limited play, Zanassi is worried that she is behind in the recruiting process and misses her team.

 “My senior season would’ve been very important to me, the bond the team had was something I’ll cherish and never forget. With the summer season being canceled, this upcoming high school season will have even more meaning to me.” said Zannasi. 

Carli has also been looking forward to playing softball for college no matter the size of the school, “it could be a big school or it could be a small school, as long as I continue to play and compete that’s all I could ask for” said Zannasi. 

For Zannasi, softball is not just a sport.

“My hope is to travel out of state for college so playing my last summer season could be a challenge. Ultimately no matter what happens I will always have a strong passion for the game and I’ve been wanting to play college softball ever since I was little and I’m excited to live out my dreams,” said Zanassi.