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Thursday, October 25, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Prep Notebook

No More Kingco? Mercer Islanders Ponder Seamount

What's the hottest item for debate around Mercer Island High?

Will Coach Dick Nicholl's football team make the state playoffs again? Just how good will Coach Ed Pepple's basketball team be this winter?

Not bad for openers, but the heated topic on the Island centers around whether the Islanders should remain a Class AAA school or drop down to AA.

Mercer Island's enrollment has been in a steady decline for years and projections indicate further decline. The Oct. 1 enrollment figure for grades 10-11-12 was 786 students. School administrators are concerned that, although the Islanders are highly competitive in almost all sports, the continued enrollment decline will make it more difficult to remain competitive in the KingCo Conference.

A school with more than 1,000 students must play AAA. A school with 786 students can play in Class AA, or it may choose to play AAA.

M.I. administrators are weighing the pros and cons of remaining in the KingCo, or joining the Class AA Seamount League. Mercer Island has an invitation to join the 10-team Seamount.

The Seamount has grown into one of the state's top AA leagues, but Mercer Islanders are having a tough time swallowing the AA thinking.

``Members of the community, at least those we've heard from, want to stay right where we are. We have a triple-A heart,'' said Gary Bridgeman, Mercer Island principal.

At a recent football game, Islander students chanted, ``Let's stay triple-A! Let's stay triple-A!''

The Mercer Island School Board eventually will make the decision. The Seamount League has asked for a verdict by mid-December to accommodate scheduling for the 1991-1992 school year.

``This is a heart issue to many people, and there are some strong feelings involved,'' Mary Anne Knoll, Mercer Island School Board President, told the Highline Times last week. ``We've gotten a lot of calls, and most people don't want to change after 35 years of tradition (in the KingCo). Public opinion will weigh in the decision, but it won't be the only factor. We have to consider what's best for the kids. It's a complicated issue.''

The numbers affect Nicholl, the football coach, more than other coaches at M.I.

``We fight a depth problem in the KingCo year in and year out, but we seem to do a good job of it. Football is kind of a numbers game. Our numbers have held up pretty well. Our football turnout is about 70 in three grades this season. Coaches of other sports don't have to worry about the numbers.''

Is that a hint?

``I'm so busy coaching football right now, it's become kind of a distraction for me,'' Nicholl said last night.

``The feeling seems to be let's go a couple more years (stay AAA) and take another look at it. I'm not convinced that's the right approach.''

-- SPSL changes

-- A year and a half after nixing the same idea, the South Puget Sound League has approved a North-South divisional split in all sports, beginning next fall.

When SPSL administrators agreed in the spring of 1989 to accept the membership applications of Auburn and the three Kent high schools (Kent-Meridian, Kentridge and Kentwood), a geographic split which would have placed those four schools in a division with the three Federal Way schools (Decatur, Federal Way and Jefferson) was proposed. But the Federal Way schools wanted to maintain their alliance with their traditional SPSL mates and a random draw determined the current divisions - Auburn, Bethel, Clover Park, Federal Way, Jefferson, Kentwood, Rogers and Sumner in the Puget Division; Curtis, Decatur, Kent-Meridian, Kentridge, Lakes, Puyallup and Spanaway Lake in the Sound Division.

But transportation time and costs forced administrators to take another look. Monday, the SPSL Principals' Association unanimously approved the North-South realignment recommended by the league's athletic directors. The new makeup: Auburn, Decatur, Federal Way, Jefferson, Kent-Meridian, Kentridge and Kentwood in the North Division; Bethel, Clover Park, Curtis, Lakes, Puyallup, Rogers, Spanaway Lake and Sumner in the South Division.

Sumner staying AAA

-- Sumner High will remain in the AAA classification rather than drop down to AA, the Sumner School Board decided last night.

``The board was leaning to AA, but public sentiment favored staying AAA,'' Tim Thomsen, Sumner activities director, said. ``One of the big concerns was how it (dropping to AA) would effect our music program, which has developed some strong ties with the AAA schools.''

Sumner presently has AA numbers, but projections indicate the school will be ``well above 1,000 in two years,'' Thomsen said.

-- Curtis No. 1 again

-- Curtis, the defending Class AAA state football champion, again will go into the state playoffs as the No. 1 seed from the SPSL. It recently has been reported that Curtis would be the league's No. 2 entry. Not true.

The Vikings (6-1) have clinched the Sound Division championship, and, for the second straight year, the Sound Division will advance as the SPSL's No. 1 seed and the Puget Division winner will go as No. 2. There is no playoff between division winners to determine the league's overall champion.

Originally, the SPSL's No. 1 seed was to alternate between the two divisions. But that would have meant the Puget Division champion always would be in the half of the state playoff bracket that involves a semifinal game east of the mountains. The WIAA annually alternates league representatives in the bracketing (for instance, SPSL No. 1 is in the upper half one year, then in the lower half the next).

Last year, Kentwood (Puget No. 1, SPSL No. 2) traveled to Kennewick for the semifinals, and Curtis (Sound No. 1, SPSL No. 1) played in the Tacoma Dome. Both teams won, then Curtis beat Kentwood in the Kingbowl.

This year, Curtis faces the prospect of an Eastern semifinal. Kentwood currenly has the inside track for another Puget Division title.

10 TDs enough?

-- When the score is getting out of hand, how important is a national record?

Clifton Davis III, quarterback at Mississippi's North Panola High, threw 10 touchdown passes last week in a 96-0 romp over Coldwater. That's believed to be a national high-school record - the 10 TDs, not the score.

Coach Clifton Davis II, who also is the quarterback's father, said his team was going for the record and was not out to run up the score.

``A national record means a lot to our school and our program,'' the coach said. ``I was glad we got the record, but at the same time I was thinking about the other team, how they might be feeling. We pulled Clifton as soon as he got the 10th touchdown.''

The 16-year-old Davis, a junior, has passed for 6,199 yards and 73 touchdowns.

Times staff reporters Sandy Ringer and Hugo Kugiya, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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