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.
1. Lynden 12-2
2. Prosser 13-1
3. Archbishop Murphy 12-1
4. Ellensburg 6-4
5. Tumwater 9-2
6. Othello 10-2
7. Burlington-Edison 10-2
8. Sequim 8-3
9. Black Hills 7-4
10. Blaine 7-5
Next: Centralia, Colville, Deer Park, Interlake, Mark Morris, North Mason, Pullman, W.F. West
Most high school football coaches say they don’t care about rankings. Some of them actually mean it. Lynden coach Curt Kramme is one of those guys.
Kramme schedules tough non-conference games – the Lions have played home-and-home series with O’Dea, Prosser and Archbishop Murphy in the last eight years – to make his team better. When I covered Lynden for The Bellingham Herald, he told me that he’d rather play a good team that would expose his team’s weaknesses, than a cupcake and build false confidence. It’s a strategy that has worked well. In the last eight seasons, Lynden has made six trips to the state semifinals, four title game appearances and won two state titles. Last season, the Lions opened with a non-conference loss to Archbishop Murphy, but 12 weeks later Lynden beat ATM in the state semifinals and then knocked off No. 1 Prosser in one of the most exciting state championship games in state history.
Lynden and Archbishop Murphy will meet again this season in Week 1 and when they do, the defending champion Lions and their 14 starters will have a target on their backs, along with a No. 1 ranking. With four returning offensive lineman, QB Jordan Hastings and WR/DB/KR Blair Bomber, who committed to WSU earlier this month, there should be no argument that Lynden deserves the top spot heading into the season.
That brings us to No. 2, which goes to Prosser. Yes, the Mustangs lost long-time coach Tom Moore – he stepped down so he could watch his sons, Kellen and Kirby, play ball at Boise State, and is now the finest freshman football coach in the state – but he built Prosser into a program. The success of 22 league titles in 23 seasons is not going to come to a skidding halt. Former Mustangs quarterback and assistant Benji Sonnichsen is the new head coach and he proved his worth when he took over a moribund Mount Vernon program in 2005. The Bulldogs had won one playoff game in school history (1984) before he arrived. Sonnichsen turned Mount Vernon into a winning team and won a playoff game in his third season. So, no, I do not believe that the sky is falling in Prosser, and neither should you (sorry Ellensburg, Selah, Othello and the rest of the CWAC).
Archbishop Murphy is clearly the No. 3 team, though some might even put the Wildcats at No. 2, citing Prosser’s graduation losses of receiver Kirby Moore, quarterback Jordan Durbin and others. ATM is in good hands with coach Dave Ward.
Some might think we have Ellensburg ranked too high. And maybe we do. But QB Ethan Sterkel and WR Kramer Ferrell have developed quite the connection. The Bulldogs gave Prosser a scare in the regular season last fall in a 41-33 Mustangs victory, with Sterkel completing 24-of-44 passes for 318 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and Ferrell making 11 catches for 196 yards. Besides, these are preseason rankings and I get to change them once a week. By my count, that gives me another 10 stabs at getting this list of the state’s top 10 teams correct.
Tumwater, Othello and Burlington-Edison are next. These teams are in the playoffs nearly every year and are loaded with players that have bought into their systems. Other teams ranked below might have a few more starters returning, but they can’t match the consistency of winning that these programs have enjoyed. So, yes, these teams are ranked because of past success, because even in supposed “down” years, these teams get to the playoffs.
Sequim, Black Hills and Blaine round out the rankings. But any of those eight teams in the “next” section could easily take their place. Class 2A is very deep with plenty of good squads. It’s going to be an interesting season.