By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
After playing five grueling games in a modified COVID-19 football season, the Rainier Beach Vikings were forced to end their season early due to injuries.
Loaded with talent, a promising season, during an unprecedented time, the Rainier Beach Vikings found themselves riddled with injuries cutting their season short due to limited players. According to Head Coach Corey Sampson, the Viking played with only 25 players this season and eventually the lack of numbers caught up with them.
“We got hit with the injury bug this year,” says Sampson. “Already short handed with 25 players, six of them lineman. So, at the end of year [the injuries] caught up to us.”
Because of the changes caused by the pandemic, schools and teams had to adjust to the realities of playing football under COVID – kids opting not to play, COVID protocols, players having to wear a mask at all times while on the field, and not playing in front of fans for most games. Being a small school under these circumstances, Rainier Beach’s football program struggled to encourage athletes to participate.
“We have quality and talented players just not enough of them,” says Sampson. “With COVID, players not coming out, guys transferring out, it was tough recruiting, but at the end of the day the ones that are here, they worked their butts off and played hard.”
With dwindling numbers throughout the season, Rainier Beach found themselves playing “iron man football” at no fault of their own. Standouts like Josh Conerly, a 6’5”, 275lbs offensive and defensive lineman and Jaelin Green, a 6’5”, 190lbs receiver and free safety and the rest of the team were forced to play a lot of minutes on both sides of the field.
Sampson attributes many of the injuries to the lack of an offseason program leading up to the beginning of the season.
“I believe a lot of the injuries had to do with not being in the weigh room all off season,” says Sampson. “We haven’t been in the weight room in over a year.”
Despite the physical nature of football and the toll that playing on both offense and defense would take on the players, the Vikings showed their resilience. After starting the season 0-2, the team finished the season with three straight shutouts.
Junior lineman Josh Conerly believes the adversity brought the team closer together.
“When it comes to closeness with your teammates this is one of the best teams I’ve been on,” says Conerly. “We are a close team, like family and we are resilient.”
“Coming off a 0-2 start, we came together and finished strong with three straight shutouts,” added Conerly.
Although the season had to be cut short for the Vikings, Sampson is very proud of his players. Even in a shortened season with limited players, their willingness to keep showing up to practice and to keep playing is a testament to their work ethic and drive to succeed.
“They played hard,” says Sampson. “They played hard. Playing against the bigger schools with more players, there were some tough losses in the beginning of the season.”
“We have some resilient kids that are tough, that love the sport of football, they love Rainier Beach High School and its community and they want to make their community proud,” he continued. “My players were playing offense, defense, special teams and they were getting banged up, these guys were on the field the whole game, [and for that] they should be commended.”
This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Seattle Medium through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.