July is a slow month for high school sports. The spring sports season has long since ended and we’ve wrapped up our 2010-11 coverage with features on the male and female athletes of the year and the all-sports championships.
After burning a few weeks of vacation, I’m back in the office. The fall sports season is still more than seven weeks away from the first games. But we’re only five weeks from the start of football practice and already getting started on our football previews.
I’ve put together some way-too-early pre-preseason Top 5 rankings. I don’t expect these to stay intact by the time our official preseason Top 10 rankings – can preseason rankings even be called “official”? – are released in late-August, but they’re a good jumping off point. If you think other teams should be included, let us know.
That said, here they are:
No more Kasen Williams, but quarterback Max Browne can elevate the play of his teammates. Linebacker Peyton Pelleur adds a veteran presence on defense. Spartans should be itching to show they can bounce back from having their string of three consecutive state titles snapped last fall.
Riverhawks graduated 18 seniors, including the CBBN 4A Offensive and Defensive players of the year Luc Graff and Nick Vincent, so there are legitimate holes to fill, especially along the line of scrimmage. But CBBN MVP and first-team linebacker Jordan Downing (1,651 rushing yards, 23 TDs) returns, along with playmaking senior Miquiyah Zamora, a first-team receiver, defensive back, returner and all-purpose player. Coach Steve Graff is one of the best in the state.
Defending state champions have reached the semifinals in each of the last four seasons, no reason to think the Saxons, with all-GSL first-teamers in RB Kole Heidinger and DL Drew Sharkey, don’t have enough to make a fifth straight appearance.
4. Bellarmine Prep
Pass-and-catch combo of QB Sefo Liufau and UW-recruit Michael Rector, plus RB Isaiah Flynn gives the Lions offensive firepower. Can Bellarmine Prep put together another stingy defense and make a return trip to the semifinals?
Maybe it’s a stretch to place the Marauders this high, even for these so-called pre-preseason rankings, but RB Kei’Varae Russell, who has at least 16 scholarship offers, is the real deal. He rushed for 1,850 yards in 2010.
Is an explanation really needed? Fine, eight state titles since 2001 should suffice.
Last year was supposed to be a down year for Lakes. Lancers had just four returning starters, but managed to reach the state semifinals. With most of the starting lineup back, including OL/DL Zach Banner, QB/DB Cedric Dozier, RB Levonte Littlejohn and WR/OLB Mane Manaea, Lakes is in position to threaten Bellevue’s supremacy.
Consistently one of the best programs in the state, the Irish rarely make mistakes.
4. Mount Spokane
Chase Naccarato, the Greater Spokane League’s all-purpose player of the year, returns for the Wildcats. Playing in the rugged 4A/3A GSL can prepare Mount Spokane for the postseason.
5. Mercer Island
Can QB Jeff Lindquist, a UW-commit, make the Islanders relevant again? Mercer Island has not been to the state playoffs since 2000 and hasn’t won a game at state since 1988. If MI can navigate through a usually-tough KingCo 3A schedule, it will be ready end those dubious streaks.
Quarterback Josh Kraght threw for 1,372 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for 885 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore. The Lions’ only loss was a 21-10 defeat to eventual state champion Tumwater in the first round of the state playoffs. Lynden has won three of the past five 2A state titles.
Defending state champions return a ton of talent and legendary coach Sid Otton is one of the best.
Reigning CWAC MVP Caleb Garza could return the Huskies to the state final for first time since 2004.
Mustangs beat Othello twice last season on their way to 22nd state-playoff appearance since 1987. Graduation of eight first-team all-CWAC players to graduation could leave Prosser playing catch-up early in the season.
5. Archbishop Murphy
Perennial state-contender reloads year after year.
1. Cascade Christian
Hard to go against three consecutive championship game appearances, especially when the teams have been very different. Coach Randy Davis and the Cougars have a good thing going right now.
Running back Matt Hadley, a BYU-commit, is the best player in the 1A ranks and maybe the best in all of Eastern Washington. Eagles are well-coached and always tough.
Goats were loaded last season with underclassmen, including QB Michael Amsel, and compiled a 10-2 record, losing twice to Connell.
Near as I can tell, the Trojans will be Slesk-less, but coach Bob Ames always has a few tricks up his sleeves.
After starting the 2010 season 3-3, youthful Omak reeled off six straight wins and reached the state semifinals. The Pioneers are primed to build on that late-season success.