It’s been a good week for Southridge football.
Last Friday, the Suns earned their first victory of the season, beating visiting Moses Lake 21-17.
And this week, head coach Aaron Sonnichsen’s squad was named the WIAA Fall Academic Team Champion for Class 3A football.
The Suns have 62 players who have an average grade point average of 3.547.
Sure, everyone there at the school would like more victories. Who wouldn’t?
“I think there is a mixture of emotions,” said Sonnichsen. “The seniors want to end their football careers by going to the playoffs, or have some statistical milestones. That’s understandable.”
Then there are some juniors who are stepping up and looking forward to next season.
“It’s cool to see some of the kids step up,” said Sonnichsen. “And we haven’t had anybody quit to get ready for basketball or wrestling, or to spend time with their girlfriends.”
Sometimes it’s not always about what’s on the scoreboard.
“It’s a process,” said Sonnichsen. “Every week we have a chance to get better. We take the next step, and work on getting better every day.”
That’s also in the classroom.
Last season, the Suns lost a few players to bad grades. Sonnichsen and his staff wanted to correct that this year.
This season, there have been constant grade checks.
“Every week, we have goals to set, including school ones,” he said. “It may just be for one guy, turning his homework in all week. We want to be a champion, and not just on the field. It’s a life thing.”
To that extent, Suns defensive coordinator Ross Ramsey saw something on the internet before the season started, where a coach provided his players a weekly life lesson.
Ramsey asked Sonnichsen if the Suns could do that this season, and the head coach was enthusiastic.
“Some of these kids don’t have father figures in their lives,” said Sonnichsen. “It’s been fun to see some of these kids step up. I think it’s been successful.”
Assistant coach Dustin Smith was assigned to come up with a lesson to be given on what was called Manly Monday.
“He was really enthusiastic about it,” said Sonnichsen. “He started coming up with ideas, like How to sharpen the blade on your lawnmower. I said slow down. They have to be about 20 to 30 minutes long.”
Sonnichsen calls Smith the coaching staff’s MacGyver, the guy who can come up with solutions to problems.
Suddenly, when every Monday of the season rolled around, Smith was teaching kids how to change a tire, how to chop wood for a fire.
“One day, we talked about money management,” said Sonnichsen. “Another Monday, we talked to them about how to treat and respect women. Last week, we taught them how to barbecue. We barbecued hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks and chicken.”
Next Monday, Sonnichsen said the team will partner up with the cheer squad and learn how to swing dance.
“I know the cheer coach is excited,” Sonnichsen. “It’s something they could use later in life. I’ve got some offensive linemen who are nervous because they think they’ll step on some toes. I told them that’s OK.”
It’s all been, said Sonnichsen, a fun little twist to the season.
“We want to be champions in all aspects of our life,” he said. “ ... Not that we’re trying to be their father figure. But someone needs to step in and help sometimes.”
And, of course, the Suns will continue to work for more success on the football field.
But right now, they’re winning at life.
More academic champs
Other Mid-Columbia teams who earned Fall Academic Team Champion status are:
• The Hanford boys in 4A cross country, coached by Keith Jolley. The Falcons had eight runners who averaged a 3.887 grade point average. Hanford shared the 4A boys title with Central Valley.
• In 2B boys soccer, Walla Walla Valley Academy, coached by Martin Heredia, carries a 3.537 GPA with 19 players.
• In 2B volleyball, Lind-Ritzville had nine athletes who averaged a 3.920 GPA. The team is coached by Cari Galbreath.
The Hermiston and Chiawana slowpitch softball teams both qualified for the first WIAA state tournaments of the school year.
The tournaments run Friday and Saturday at the Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima.
Hermiston, the regular-season Mid-Columbia Conference champion with a 6-0 MCC record and 16-2 overall, beat Rogers of Spokane 10-6 in the District 8 tournament in Spokane last Saturday.
The Bulldogs, coached by Kate Greenough, then edged Mt. Spokane’s 10-9 to win the 2A/3A district title.
Hermiston opens the 2A/3A state tournament at noon Friday against Prairie.
The other first-round games of the eight-team tournament — all starting at noon — have Lake Washington playing Mt. Spokane, Rogers of Spokane taking on R.A. Long, and Washougal battling Chief Sealth.
Meanwhile, Chiawana coach Brian Thomas led his team to the district 4A title game last Saturday after the Riverhawks (4-2 MCC play, 15-7 overall) beat Lewis & Clark 8-1.
Chiawana lost 7-2 to Central Valley in the title game, but the Riverhawks had already qualified for the state tournament by winning that first contest.
The eight-team, 4A state tournament starts at 10 a.m. Friday, with four games: Chiawana vs. Union; West Valley-Yakima vs. Woodinville; Skyview taking on Central Valley; and Lewis & Clark doing battle with Moses Lake.
The championship games for both tournaments are set for 2 p.m. Saturday.
Next in line is the WIAA state cross country meet, set for Nov. 9 at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
The MCC meets up with the Greater Spokane League this coming Saturday at Wandermere Golf Course in Spokane for the District 8 championships.
The schedule has the 3A girls race at 1 p.m.; the 4A girls race at 1:30 p.m.; the 3A boys race at 2 p.m.; and the 4A boys race at 2:30 p.m.
This year, just the top two teams (along with various individual runners) will qualify for state in each of the four races.
The District 8 girls Class 4A soccer tournament began Wednesday when Hanford visited Gonzaga Prep.
The rest of the tournament field plays Thursday: Walla Walla at Mead, 6:30 p.m.; Ferris at Chiawana, 5 p.m.; and Central Valley at Richland, 6 p.m.
Everyone will play on Saturday at various sites.
The tournament is a double-elimination format, with the top two placers advancing to the state tournament.
The District 8 girls Class 3A soccer tournament begins Thursday with two matches (both are loser-out contests): Kennewick vs. Shadle Park at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, 7:30 p.m.; and North Central at Southridge, 5 p.m.
Kamiakin awaits the Kennewick-Shadle Park winner for a 12 p.m. Saturday game at Lampson Stadium, while the NC-Southridge winner plays at Mt. Spokane at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The top two placing teams advance to the state tournament.
The District 8 Class 4A volleyball tournament begins Nov. 5 at various sites. The top two placing teams will advance to the state tournament.
The District 8 Class 3A volleyball tournament starts Nov. 7. The top two teams also advance to state.