We’ll be releasing our preseason football rankings over the next few days. First up is Class 4A. Class 3A will be tomorrow, followed by 2A on Friday, 1A on Saturday and then 2B and 1B on Sunday.
We’ve spoken to coaches and high school sports reporters across the state, so I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on what teams are expected to be among the best this season. Of course, “expected” doesn’t mean a team will be one of the best, so take these rankings for what they are: an educated guess based on last year’s performances, returning players and expected contributions from newcomers.
One thing before we get to the rankings. Like we did last year, we’ll be sending out in-game score updates on Friday night via Twitter. I’ll also be sending out a “how the top 10 teams fared” on Friday nights and our weekly rankings on Sunday evening/Monday morning via Twitter. So, if you want to receive all that instantly, you can sign up here.
Click through to view the rankings.
PRESEASON TOP 10
1. Skyline 14-0
2. Ferris 11-2
3. Bothell 8-4
4. Auburn 11-1
5. Issaquah 11-3
6. Central Kitsap 9-4
7. Gonzaga Prep 8-2
8. Eastlake 6-4
9. Southridge 10-1
10. Heritage 5-5
Next: Curtis, Foss, Gig Harbor, Graham-Kapowsin, Jackson, Kentridge, Kentwood, Marysville-Pilchuck, Olympia, Rogers, South Kitsap, Tahoma, Walla Walla, Wenatchee
Skyline is an easy pick for No. 1. The defending state champions return all-everything quarterback Jake Heaps, and all-state-caliber players at receiver, offensive line and linebacker. Former coach Steve Gervais built a program at the Sammamish school and second-year coach Mat Taylor is building on that.
Heading into the season, Ferris and Bothell are a step ahead of the rest because they have fewer question marks. The Saxons have a standout quarterback in Conner Halliday and lineman in Kjelby Oiland. Back-to-back trips to the state semifinals, plus a solid returning cast gives them the nod for the No. 2 spot.
Bothell coach Tom Bainter finally has a pair of Pac-10 prospects in OL Colin Porter and TE/DL Michael Hartvigson. The Cougars played Skyline close in the KingCo 4A championship game last season, even led 12-9 with two minutes to go, before eventually losing 16-12.
You can make arguments to put Auburn, Issaquah, Central Kitsap and Gonzaga Prep in different orders, and you’d have valid points. Auburn has some talented athletes, especially RB/S Chris Young and OL/DL Danny Shelton, and coach Gordon Elliott finds ways to pile up 300 rushing yards a game with a new group of players every season. Issaquah has some holes to fill, namely QBJoey Bradley, but RB Grant Gellatly and others are back. Central Kitsap made a surprise run to the semifinals behind RB Howard McDonald, who has graduated, but the Cougars return quite a bit of experience from that team and there’s nothing like a deep postseason run for motivation. Then there’s Gonzaga Prep. The Bullpups were one of the hottest teams in the state at the end of last season, but missed out on the playoffs after falling 24-23 to Central Valley in Week 8. G-Prep RB Bishop Sankey is legit, rushing for 526 yards and averaging 10.4 yards per carry in about half a season last fall. If he can stay healthy, the Bullpups could give Ferris a run in the Greater Spokane League.
Like the previous four teams, Eastlake, Southridge and Heritage could all swap spots. Eastlake gets the edge in the preseason rankings because it comes from a stronger conference — games against Skyline and Issaquah should toughen up the Wolves. Southridge was undefeated through 10 games in the Columbia Basin/Big Nine before losing to Central Valley 28-14 in the first round of the state playoffs. Heritage seems to be the class of the Greater St. Helens League 4A, making it the No. 10 team.