Perhaps you’ve seen him at Pop Keeney Stadium. He sits in the top row, his laptop perched upon a rickety old table. Throughout the game, he jumps to his feet, binoculars trained upon the field. His face etched with determination to follow the football.
He’s 38-year old Andrew Strutzel --the Woodinville statistician. As brother-in-law to Falcon head coach Wayne Maxwell, Strutzel has been tracking the team’s stats for 14 seasons.
“Wayne asked me if I would be interested,” Strutzel said. “I thought it would be a fun way to spend Friday evenings. Because at that point I was 24 years old and it was before my wife Jenn and I had children. So we had some disposable time. Here we are 14 years later, and we have three daughters [Siena, Taea and Zoe] and a niece [Addison], and come to every game...There are lots of trips to the Dollar Store to get face paint and tutus.”
But life isn’t all peaches and cream for the stat guy. Take for instance Military Night, which for many years featured Falcon players wearing camouflage jerseys. The players loved them, but for Strutzel they signaled an annual nightmare.
“Those are the worst nights every year,” Strutzel said. “Pretty much every number looks like the number 8. Every year when I saw it on the schedule I cursed it and hoped Wayne would take pity on me and change things up. But every year they would trot out in those cammo uniforms. I felt bad for the kids, because I knew there was no way I would get [the stats] right. I probably could have used a Bingo cage and have been more accurate with the stats.”
Throughout each game, Strutzel exchanges texts with the Woodinville Weekly sports writer. He’ll pass along stats and they’ll fire quips back-and-forth. But it should be noted that Strutzel saved that reporter’s bacon one evening in 2014.
It was halftime and Strutzel noticed that the reporter was nowhere to be seen. He scanned the sidelines but saw no trace. So he grabbed his smartphone to send a text.
Seated at home on his couch, the reporter was watching Florida State beat the crap out of somebody. Suddenly his phone beeped.
STRUTZEL: “Hey buddy, are you at the game tonight?”
JOHNSON: “What game?”
STRUTZEL: “The Woodinville game.”
JOHNSON: “r u joking? It’s Thursday night.”
STRUTZEL: “No joke. Rare Thursday game. Woodinville playing at Pop Keeney. It’s halftime.”
JOHNSON: “Oh (Bleep)!”
“I just wanted to check to make sure you were there,” Strutzel recalled. “You and I have kind of the silent-stare-across-the-field bond. We’re kind of the loners out there even though we’re in a sea of people attending the game together. We’ve got special jobs to do. And to hear that you were very comfortable at home watching college football. I was like, `you’ve got one job to do Johnson—check the schedule!’”
But when he’s not rescuing reporters from peril, Strutzel revels in being part of the team.
“It’s great watching how this program grows,” he said. “Every year is a new adventure.”
Strutzel was asked for some favorite memories. He cited Woodinville’s epic, triple overtime win over Skyline in 2016.
“It was slugfest, probably one of my favorite games of all time,” he said. “It was two teams going toe-to-toe, for four quarters and three overtimes. The efforts by Quinn [Schreyer] and Mack [Minnehan] made for a special night. Seeing the students rush the field, that’s a fun way to see everyone share the experience. And the Pop Keeney Stadium crew recognized how special the moment was and didn’t try to play the `lock-the-fence’ game.”
Strutzel asked to share insight on coach Wayne Maxwell.
“I do this because he’s my brother-in-law and a great guy,” Strutzel said. “But one of the things that stands out for me is when we go on vacation, he’s never reading books on football strategy and Xs and Os. He’s always reading about leadership and goals and how to build culture. And I really think it shows in the program. He’s always trying to create a team and men of character versus just football players… That’s a big reason Wayne has been successful. He knows the Xs and Os like no one. But he’s looking beyond what it takes to be successful on the field to what it takes to be successful off the field and in life with these kids.”
As of this writing, the Falcons have a 5-0 record and are ranked #2 in the state by The Seattle Times.
“Woodinville for a long time has defined itself with its defensive prowess,” Strutzel said. “And the unique thing about this year’s team is that they’re so balanced. They are led by the front line and that defense is so suffocating. But that offense can put up points. It’s going to make this a very interesting run.”
But Strutzel says the worst moment for him each year is the team’s last game. The heartbreak in watching most of the seniors realize they’ll never again play competitive football.
“They mill around on the field, knowing it’s the last time to put on that jersey,” he said. “I experienced it too when I played. It’s something those kids will remember forever. The joy and the sorrow of it.”