West Washington is often described as a little school in the middle of a cornfield, but this past weekend, they made their mark on a national stage as they went to accept an award from Varsity Brands at Disney World.
The school was awarded the 2017 Superior Sportsmanship Award following a game between the Senators and Indianapolis Washington Continentals. They were one of the top three finalists in the country, along with Cleveland High School in Seattle, Washington, and Narragansett High School in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
“The varsity football team at West Washington High School embodies the highest ideals of spirit and respect,” reads the announcement on the Varsity Brands website. “Their integrity is best exemplified by a game that officials report, was ‘the best displays of sportsmanship seen in many years of working.’
“When a rival team could only put 10 players on the field, West Washington removed a player from the line to ensure a fair game. The West Washington football team prides itself on maintaining a family atmosphere, and on inviting guests to their family with open arms.”
“This is not only the recognition for a job well done when it comes to the highlight game of the West Washington versus Indianapolis Washington game we hosted, which was a great opportunity to highlight what our kids have done and what our staff did in preparing them for the game and preparing them to behave in a manner that is representative of our school and that we can be proud of, but also a $2,000 reward,” Nance announced the news at the board meeting Monday night, which occurred during the broadcast of the awards show. “I want to commend all those who made it happen.”
Athletic Director Phillip Bowsman accepted the award on the behalf of the school from Maribeth Bisienere, senior vice president of Downtown Disney, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Waterparks.
"I’d like to thank Varsity Brands for giving us this opportunity to put our school on the map, to recognize, not just our coaching staff, but our whole school, our players and our community," he said at the award show. "This was definitely an award that was earned, not just by our football team, but by the entire community at West Washington High School.
In the West Washington meeting, he thanked Principal Mary Anne Knapp for sending the school’s application in and opening up the chance for the school to win.
“We started preparing our guys a week in advance for this game,” said Bowsman. “We talked a lot about how we wanted to handle things and the boys did an amazing job. I talked about the community and the students. We had about 20 to 30 of our students who went over to sit on their team’s section because I think they had maybe two fans come to the game. Our kids, on their own, without anyone asking them, got up, went over and just cheered for anything, good or bad, for them. There were a lot of factors that went into us winning this. It was a football game that gave us a opportunity to demonstrate sportsmanship, which gave us the chance to go to the awards show.”
Bowsman said he didn’t know what to expect when he and other school representatives went to Disney World to attend the awards show, but called it “a mini version of the ESPYs.”
“It was a really cool experience to get to do that,” he said. “I had a coach in our conference tell me today — it was great for our school and our program, but they felt like we represented Southern Indiana.”
Last year, Varsity Brands gave out $25,000 total in awards for their school spirit program. This year, they gave out $100,000 in prizes to schools throughout the country, both to individual athletes and overall schools. The Most School Spirit award would have awarded the most money — $25,000.
“I’m going for the $25,000 School Spirit Award next year!” said Knapp.
See the awards show in its entirety here:
West Washington's award announcement starts at 20:43.