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Bulldogs to play in Washington-Griz stadium

ST. IGNATIUS – The Mission Bulldogs will kick off football season in Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Friday, after school board members decided in an Aug. 19 meeting that the opportunity was too great to pass up. 

The last-minute venue change was approved after a lengthy debate about how much it would impact scheduling conflicts and overall student body performance. 

“I thought because of the potential broad impact on our community that it should be brought to the board,” Superintendent Bob Lewandowski said. “The administrative team struggled with this decision and there was as much disagreement as there was agreement.” 

The Bulldogs’ schedule has been set for several months with a pre-season scrimmage against the Eureka Lions at the Mission football stadium. Eureka’s coach called 10 days before the match and let Mission athletic officials know that a rare opportunity had arisen. 

Eureka and Mission were invited to play in Washington-Grizzly Stadium as part of an Idaho-Montana rivalry exhibition. There will be three other games that day, with Ronan High School also participating. 

If the game had been something that counted toward the team’s win-loss record, it would have been better to have the home field advantage, but the Eureka scrimmage is a “zero” game where the final score won’t be tallied in the record books, Lewandowski said. 

The athletic boosters agreed to pay the $400 cost of hosting the game. 

The primary barrier to getting the venue change approved was the game’s time: 1 p.m., instead of the originally scheduled 7 p.m. 

It brought on a barrage of questions about whether or not it was fair to player’s families to change the game time last minute. 

The timing also coincided with important training session that Lewandowski believes is critical to achieving the school’s goals. A handful of staff, coaches and parents were scheduled to participate in the training. 

“I don’t think there is a person in the room who didn’t want the boys to play in a venue like that, knowing how much it would mean, but on the other hand there were questions about how it would affect our staff if we didn’t have people there at the training,” Lewandowski said. “My opinion is really colored by the need to meet the educational needs of our children, but on the other hand, we love these kids. We want to see things happen for these 29 boys, but they represent approximately six percent of our total enrollment, and probably 20 percent of the high school enrollment.” 

Lewandowski expected there to backlash from the community no matter where the Bulldogs played.

“I wish this question had never come up,” Lewandowski said. “The (staff) will respond in kind. Some will want to go, some will not want to go, some will ask ‘Why did you change last minute?’ It has the opportunity to start our year out on a really sour note.” 

High School Principal Jason Sargeant said he expected some backlash because of the short notice, but also said he thought the opportunity outweighed any negative response. 

“If we say yes, then someone is going to be upset about missing the opportunity,” Sargent said. “On the flipside, I know my brother played in (a college dome) when he was in high school and he remembered it forever. He enjoyed it and it stands out.” 

Middle School Principal Dan Durglo said he has two boys on the team who he would love to see play, but that he has committed to the training and will stay behind.

“As long as they tape it and I get updates, I can see it after the fact,” Durglo said. “It’s a great opportunity for our kids and our community.” 

School Board Member Peter Matt said he hopes the district can balance meeting the school’s educational obligations while providing the team with what might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Athletic Director Rich Ferris apologized for any inconvenience to families or fans. 

“It’s just such a great opportunity,” Ferris said. “They are going to get dressed in the Griz locker rooms and get to run into the stadium like the Griz.” 

Ferris said Mission activity passes will be honored at the gate. Community members were trying to arrange a bus to help transport people to the stadium late last week, but if efforts don’t pan out, spectators should be prepared to pay $3 for parking, Ferris said. Questions about passes or parking can be directed to the school at (406) 745-3811. 

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