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Yareli Sanchez-Blanco is the one of a few seniors on Wenatchee soccer team this year. The Panthers open up their season against Eastmont at Apple Bowl on Saturday, Feb. 27. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.

NCW — Finally.

After nearly a full year of biding their time, waiting and waiting some more, the area’s football, girls soccer, swim and dive, volleyball and cross country teams got the news they were anxiously hoping for: “fall” sports start on Feb. 27.

Gov. Jay Inslee moved the North Central Region (encompassing Grant, Okanogan, Chelan and Douglas Counties) into Phase 2 Thursday afternoon.

Once news spread around the community, the mood of the athletes and coaches could be best characterized as pure, unadulterated excitement. For seniors, the mountain of stress and anxiety that built up over the past 12 months evaporated. And a collective sigh of relief followed — we’re back to sports.

Eastmont head football coach Mike Don said next week will be the first time the team gets to line up 11-on-11. And on Friday, they’ll get to put on the pads for the first time in nearly 18 months.

“Oh we’re excited,” Don said Friday afternoon. “We’ve been talking about it with the kids and we’re ready to get going next week. It will be nice to get out of pods and actually line up with all 11 for the first time. It’s been a long time. But I’m really excited and happy for the kids. At the same time, I feel awful for all the athletes in Yakima and the Tri-Cities, who are experiencing the exact emotions I had feared for our kids. But luckily, we’ll get the opportunity to get out there soon.”

Football season starts on March 5. Eastmont opens up against 1A Royal on the road while Wenatchee faces Moses Lake at the Apple Bowl. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Chelan senior, and state champion volleyball player, Katie Rainville said the team is ready to dig in and get going.

“I think we’re all just so excited to get out there,” she said after school Friday. “It’s going to be a little sad since it’s our last year together, but to wear that Chelan jersey one more time and have that community feel, I’m really excited for that. There is an overall readiness — with the rest of the girls — to finally get to play in that team atmosphere again.”

The Goats were placed into Tier I for volleyball and will get to compete against 4A schools Wenatchee, Eastmont and Moses Lake, as well as 2A Ephrata. Volleyball will only be played on Saturday’s, but each team will play two games. Chelan, Wenatchee and Eastmont open against one another at Eastmont High School on Feb. 27. First serve is 10 a.m.

Girls soccer also starts on Feb. 27., and cross-bridge rivals Wenatchee/Eastmont will play each other first. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.