PASCO — For more than two decades, Dana Graff has spent her Friday nights in the fall sitting in the bleachers watching young men pound the stuffing out of each other.
Such is the life of a high school football coach's wife.
She enjoys the experience. But in the last two years, she's spent more time on the edge of her seat, kept a closer eye on the offense and felt more of the hits.
Such is the life of a high school quarterback's mom.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"It's much harder," Dana said, "to be the mother than to be the wife."
Her husband, Steve Graff, has been coaching football in the Tri-Cities for 22 years -- coaching it quite well, in fact, having guided Pasco to the state playoffs eight times in his 12 seasons there as head coach and winning three state titles.
Last season, he moved across town when Chiawana opened, and this year the Riverhawks are among the state's best, unbeaten and playing in the 4A state quarterfinals against Ferris on Saturday at Edgar Brown Stadium.
"I used to watch the defense more," Dana said, noting that Steve also serves as his own defensive coordinator. "This year I'm more interested in the offense. I'm highly interested in the offensive line. I tell them all Luc's uniform better be clean after the game."
The washing machine might as well remain silent, as little as Luc Graff has been hit this season behind an O-line comprised entirely of first- and second-team all-league selections.
But more than just being nervous or excited for her son, Dana Graff is thrilled to watch his teammates, many of whom practically grew up in her home.
When Luc lines up behind center Pat Sullivan, Dana can still see the two of them as babies, side-by-side in car seats.
When defensive player of the year Nick Vincent demolishes yet another running back, she also sees the little boy swimming in the family's pool.
Christian Castillo and Cameron Dahl, Jordan Downing and Nick Mackay, and so many others who have grown into standout football players, were once little kids running around the house.
"We pretty much grew up together," Dahl said. "We'd go swimming and have barbecues at (Luc's) house."
"His mom was my second-grade teacher," Downing added.
Those bonds have only strengthened, so much so that the players don't hesitate a bit spending time at their coach's house -- perhaps not something every football player would look forward to.
"We don't mind going over to his house," Castillo said.
"On the field, he gets on us if we're not playing our butts off," Sullivan said. "Off the field, he's a good guy."
"It's not like he's hard on us at his home," Vincent said. "He jokes with us, calls us names."
Steve said this group of players holds a special place with him.
"The thing that will be a little different this year than other years is Lucas and that group of friends have hung out," he said. "They've been through Little League, basketball, all that stuff, since they were babies.
"They're going to be a tough group to lose. But a lot of them have been tough to lose."
"The most rewarding thing," Dana said, "is we've watched these kids grow up, and they are really a special group of kids."
Steve said he doesn't have a problem separating "Coach Graff" from "Luc's dad" because ... well ... they're the same person.
It helps that he's had a pretty easy relationship with all his kids, whether it's bow-hunting trips to Dayton or summer vacations at Priest Lake.
They have all walked the sidelines as ballboys the last 10 years -- ballgirl, in the case of Samantha, studying athletic training at Washington State. Luc put in six years, handing the duties off first to Grady -- a freshman who took over the longsnapper duties when senior Jaden Espinosa had an appendectomy -- and then to Mac, in his final season as a ballboy.
"It's always nice to have your kids around," Steve Graff said. "But they're all my kids."