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Washington high school football: 4 teams off to unexpected 3-0 starts in 2023

One of these programs once endured the fourth-longest losing streak in state history at 41 consecutive losses

Everyone loves a feel-good story, and there are plenty of high school football teams in Washington - expected or not - off to a 3-0 start this fall.

Here are four undefeated off-the-radar programs that SBLive WA finds intriguing moving forward (schools listed in alphabetical order):



Battle Ground football 2023

Average amount of wins in each of past five seasons (not including COVID-shortened 2021 season): 1.8.

Best win in 2023: Prairie.

Player to watch: Tigers have crew of running backs they utilize, but RB Jacob Champine is unquestioned workhorse.

Skinny: Marked with offseason buzz, Battle Ground sitting at 3-0 is no surprised. What is mind-blowing is how dominant the Tigers have been, particularly on defense. They've given up just one touchdown in three games - and has only surrendered one first down in their first two wins against Mark Morris and Beamer. "That is nuts," said Mike Woodward, the second-year coach back at his alma mater. "It doesn't matte who you are playing." Besides returning all four starting linebackers, Woodward points to a pair of offseason developments that have contributed to the rise of this defense. One is a transfer - defensive end Jacob Defrates, who moved into the area from California for his senior year. Woodward said he's "lit the whole program on fire" with his energy and attitude. Second is a new coordinator - feisty 70-year-old Dave Woodmark, who gives this unit an edge. Woodward said team convinced him it was a playoff contender by its showing at the George Fox University summer camp when it dominating good Oregon schools.

Quotable: "We've said all along that it doesn't do us any good winning these non-league games, then going 0-3 in league and sitting home (from playoffs) in November." - Mike Woodward



Klahowya football 2023

Average amount of wins in each of past five seasons (not including COVID-shortened 2021 season): 3.6.

Best win in 2023: Tenino.

Player to watch: WR Carson Moore is a big target (6-3, 185) who has great hands and a wicked first step in route-running.

Skinny: For a school that opened in 1997, the Eagles have found intermittent success in football, earning state-playoff trips in 2004 and 2018. Can they get back there this fall? After last year's 1-8 campaign, Klahowya has suddenly found a way to reverse close 2022 losses into last-minute wins this season - including one last week against Tenino, a WIAA playoff team last season. "They have the experience now and know what it takes to win," fourth-year coach Jeff Witte said. What Witte has is an offense that can quickly strike in any corner of the field. Senior quarterback Jackson Kealoha has played more calm and composed this fall - and that has enabled him to find his big-play weapons in Moore, Nathan Turk and Grant Solvie on the perimeter, and Nathan West out of the backfield. Add in the fact the Eagles have two seniors and a pair of juniors returning on the offensive line, and this team could certainly be a wild-card factor in earning one of the league's two playoff spots.

Quotable: "We set goals at our senior retreat to be .500 or above and to make the playoffs." - Jeff Witte



Rogers of Spokane Pirates football 2023

Average amount of wins in each of past five seasons (not including COVID-shortened 2021 season): 1.2.

Best win in 2023: Freeman.

Player to watch: QB Aaron Kinsey is arguably the best athlete in the Greater Spokane League - at any level.

Skinny: Over the past two decades, the boys from the Hillyard neighborhood just haven't been able to find traction in football. Not only have the Pirates had no winning seasons, they have had 14 season of one victory or fewer (and a 41-game losing streak during that span). Is the outlook changing? They are off to their first 3-0 start in 20 years - and not only are their roster numbers up (35-40 players), they have all of their starting linemen back under first-year coach Ryan Cole, as well as a bona fide playmaker in Kinsey at quarterback, who totaled nearly 400 all-purpose yards and passing, rushing and kickoff-return touchdowns last week against Freeman. "Our 4x100 relay took third at state last year, and three of them are on football team," Cole said. "We’ve got a lot of speed." And, perhaps more importantly, they have a a lot belief in the 2A GSL. "Something we are aiming to do - we don't want to be kid brother anymore," Cole said. "We want to be peers with everyone in our league - not the doormat or the 'W' on everybody's schedule."

Quotable: "For our community, we are trying to bring pride for football back into our area." - Ryan Cole



Stadium Tigers football 2023

Average amount of wins in each of past five seasons (not including COVID-shortened 2021 season): 2.4.

Best win in 2023: Cedarcrest.

Player to watch: QB Donovan Gill is a naturally charismatic leader (and playmaker) as a junior who teammates want to follow.

Skinny: If you took a poll among coaches about the hardest jobs in the state to win at - Stadium would near the top of a short list. The Tigers have never been to the playoffs in the WIAA tournament era. They've been to the round-of-32 playoffs once - in 2016 (lost to Peninsula). And second-year coach Patrick Johnson isn't sure any Stadium team has started 3-0 in the modern era. But here they are - ready to make more noise with a young but hungry group (53 returning players, including 12 seniors), led by a coach who knows a thing or two about building programs through stable culture as the former coach at Foss. "When I came here last year, yeah, we were struggling - losing," Johnson said. "So we asked the players, 'Where are the little wins? We started counting plays ... as wins - enough where we had more wins than losses." This fall, rosters numbers are up (83) - and the Tigers have a pair of playmaking signal callers in Gill and sophomore Kooper Tasler, who are also starting cornerbacks. And Stadium registered a big rivalry win last week by blanking Silas, 24-0. "To turn this around, you first have to take the north end of Tacoma," Johnson said.

Quotable: "At our (2022) banquet at the end of the year, we were in our theater putting up highlight videos ESPY-style. We want that culture ... and our players to want to be part of this." Patrick Johnson


(Featured photo by Lauren Smith/The (Tacoma) News Tribune)