Returning to roots, White River football team to play at Sheets Field

Returning to their historic roots, the White River High Hornets will play their first home football game of the fall season on the natural grass surface of Sheets Field in downtown Buckley.

It has been nine full seasons since the Hornets last played at Sheets, known for its rustic, wooden grandstands and often-muddy field.

Current players only know the artificial turf and shiny metal bleachers of their field on the White River campus on the outskirts of town. But generations of Hornets fondly recall the days when many spectators walked to the game and others filled every parking spot in the neighborhood surrounding the downtown school.

The situation changed with completion of the replacement White River High and the transition of the old high school to Glacier Middle School. Games have been played on campus since the fall of 2003 when doors of the new school swung open.

That will change, for one night only, on Sept. 7 when the White River Hornets host Highline High in nonleague action. The Sheets Field game will kick off at 7 p.m.

The decision to return one game to downtown Buckley was the brainchild of White River Athletic Director Chris Gibson.

“We thought it would be an outstanding way to honor the community of Buckley,” Gibson said. “It’s a neat, nostalgic place to play.”

A lot of work is needed to prepare Sheets Field for a single game, but costs will be kept to a minimum thanks to the time and expertise being volunteered by Hornet boosters.

“There are a lot of outstanding people in this community doing a lot of work to make this happen,” Gibson said.

For example, the field will be shifted slightly to have it fit better within the surrounding track. That means goal posts at each end of the field will have to be moved slightly to the west and the crown in the center of the field will move accordingly.

Before plans could be finalized, it had to be determined that the Sheets grandstands could support a good-sized crowd. Engineers performed a “load test” and, when things checked out OK, the process moved forward.

Gibson is looking forward to two exciting weeks to open the football season. The game at Sheets comes in Week 2, following a season opener that pits the Hornets of White River against the Hornets of Enumclaw High. The traditional rivals will play Aug. 31 on the second-year, Pete’s Pool turf at the Enumclaw Expo Center.

The season opener is significant in that it marks the return of the annual Hornet-Hornet tussle. The teams from the neighboring districts played for decades, even when they moved to different leagues. The rivalry game went on hiatus when former EHS coach Don Bartel chose to go another direction with his nonleague schedule; preferring not to play schools from a smaller classification, White River and Enumclaw did not meet in 2010 or 2011. When Bartel stepped down, Gibson and Enumclaw Athletic Director Kevin Smith agreed to resume the rivalry.

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