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The 5 most surprising 3-0 starts (and one 2-0 start) in Washington high school football this season


As the calendar is ready to turn to October in a week, there are 78 schools in the state of Washington who boast undefeated records through the first three weeks of the 2019 high school football season.

Many of them are not surprising developments. Some are. Here are five that caught the eye of Scorebook Live Washington reporters:

1. WHITE SWAN (2-0 in 2B Eastern Washington)

Adam Sevier

Wins: Goldendale (32-18), Dayton/Waitsburg (24-14)

Skinny: After a run of exciting perennial playoff teams (2009-2014), including the 2013 squad that drew national attention for playing 400-pound running back Tony Picard (coach Andy Bush did more than 250 interview on this topic) - the Cougars have fallen off in recent years.

And last season, it hit rock bottom - a winless (0-9) campaign.

“We had one senior on that team,” Bush said. “It was one of those cyclical things. Now we have 14 seniors, so we almost have the entire team back from last year.”

And the Cougars are back to their usual razzle-dazzle, too. Running back Jermaine Swan has thrown a touchdown pass. So has wide receiver Devin Sampson-Craig. It is a bunch having fun, intent on snapping the school’s run of four consecutive losing seasons.

“It’s a dedicated group with lots of seniors - and lots of good athletes,” Bush said.

2. PRAIRIE (3-0 in 3A GSHL)

Wins: Parkrose, Ore. (52-33), Washougal (36-6), Black Hills (56-14)

Skinny: Still believe the Falcons are just a basketball school?

Last season in coach Mike Peck’s head-coaching debut, Prairie finished third in the 3A Greater St. Helens League, and made it to the district round of the playoffs, losing to Lincoln of Tacoma.

Can the Falcons go further this time around? And can they post their first winning season since 2011 (6-4)?

Peck, a former quarterback at R.A. Long High School who played at Whitworth University in Spokane, noted the invaluable experience of having four returning offensive linemen, led by Brody Schlaefli, Christian Lowry and Tim Banaszek.

“They are leaders of the team,” Peck said.

Prairie also has returning starting quarterback A.J. Dixson to run the spread offense. Wide receivers Jimmie Barton, Zeke Dixson (his twin brother) and Hudson’s Bay transfer Treyce Teague give him viable pass-catching targets.

For the first time in decades, the Falcons are off to a 3-0 start.

“Fully understanding what we want usually happens in year No. 3 or 4,” Peck said. “I am happy with it being sooner than later.”

3. CLOVER PARK (3-0 in 2A SPSL)

Wins: Renton (forfeit), Evergreen of Seattle (19-0), Lindbergh (25-0)

Skinny: OK, so the Warriors have beaten the rebuilding teams of the 2A SPSL, and only played six quarters total (their win over Evergreen was called at halftime because of lightning).

But considering they lost 10 senior starters from last year’s squad, then their best returning player (2A SPSL lineman of the year Fili Fata) to a season-ending injury just weeks before preseason camp - coach Jonathan “Taz” Randall could not have dreamed up a better start to 2019.

“We’ve started the year with our worst numbers since 2011 … but the kids have bought in to what we are coaching, what we are teaching,” Randall said. “And they have worked hard on conditioning. I am really pleased.”

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And in six quarters, the Clover Park defense has kept opponents off the scoreboard. Last week’s 25-0 win was the Warriors’ first shutout victory since 2005.

Randall is high on the prospect of sophomore middle linebacker Xavier Pulea, who is also a wrestler. He is raw, but shows natural instincts. Randall already trusts him to read the action pre-snap and call the adjustments.

“We’ve had to practice multiple kids at different positions,” Randall said. “Because of that, we’ve kept it super simple. We are doing a couple of things, but trying to just get better at that. We’ve gone back to just fundamental football.”

4. LA CENTER (3-0 in 1A Trico)

Wins: Ridgefield (35-28), Woodland (35-6), Hoquiam (48-14).

Skinny: The surprise isn’t that the Wildcats are winning games - they reached the 1A semifinals just two years ago.

It’s who they’ve beaten early on after what coach John Lambert labeled a “character-building” 2018 season.

Last season, they lost their first four games (and five of first six) before rallying to make the postseason, losing to Elma in the district round.

“We lost some games we don’t normally lose,” Lambert said. “But our message to them was believe in the process, trust the process and give tremendous effort. We are seeing the fruits of their labor carrying over now.”

After winning back-to-back games against 2A schools, La Center got a measure of revenge against 1A Evergreen Conference winner Hoquiam, which handled the Wildcats a season ago (40-14).

La Center beat the Grizzlies, 48-14, to post its first 3-0 start since 2013.

“It was the cleanest game we’ve played in a long time,” Lambert said.

It helps that his son, Tom, leads the way at quarterback. He has nearly 400 yards passing, and 400 yards rushing.

5. MOUNT SI (3-0 in 4A Kingco)

clay millen, mount si

Wins: Wenatchee (26-16), Kentwood (28-20), Skyview (31-26)

Skinny: So how can it be such a big surprise that the Wildcats have started 3-0 after doing it last year?

Mount Si lost the majority of its starters on both sides of the ball from its 2018 state quarterfinal team, including all-state quarterback Cale Millen, who is now at the University of Oregon.

But with a new cast of core performers, led by Cale’s younger brother - Clay - at quarterback, the Wildcats have impressive victories over top-20 programs in Class 4A.

“What it’s told me is that we are very bright, and we are very tough,” Mount Si coach Charlie Kinnune said. “I am not sure there are more mentally-tough teams out there.”

Each of the Wildcats’ wins came down to the fourth quarter: They came from behind to beat Wenatchee, and had to hold off furious comeback bids from Kentwood and Skyview.

The one advantage this Mount Si team full of juniors has is it has played together since youth-league days.

“It comes out when we need to finish teams off,” Kinnune said.

Few quarterbacks have displayed the type of efficiency (69-for-101, 724 yards, eight TD, no INT) and toughness that Clay Millen has in the first few weeks. He has delivered big passing plays after taking huge hits.

“He’s had an incredible three-game start,” Kinnune said. “Teammates love him. And when your quarterback is one of the toughest guys on the field, his team will follow him.”