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Washington’s Top 50 high school football teams in 2022: No. 13 Gonzaga Prep cupboard still full, except one important shelf - quarterback

Reigning GSL player of the year Ryan McKenna graduated as three-year starter, and now the reins of the offense will go to JoJo Shortell, his longtime backup

SBLive is previewing the Top 50 high school teams in Washington ahead of the 2022 season. Here’s an inside look at the Gonzaga Prep Bullpups of the 4A/3A Greater Spokane League - the No. 13 team in our countdown:

2021 IN REVIEW

11-1 in 4A/3A GSL (first place); lost to Lake Stevens in Class 4A quarterfinals.

COACH’S RESUMÉ

  • David McKenna, 15th season.
  • Overall record: 117-32.
  • Coordinators (base scheme): Offense – Bob Cassano (triple option). Defense – HT Higgins (4-3).

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

QB Ryan McKenna

DL Kaz Melzer

LB Luciano Reynolds

DL Ephraim Watkins

RETURNING STARTERS

Offense – 9. Defense – 5.

TOP PLAYERS

RB Nick Bankey, 6-0, 215, sr.

LB Nate Boyum, 5-11, 185, sr.

LB Jackson Crocker, 6-2, 185, sr.

WR Bo Howell, 6-1, 170, sr.

DB Ryan Jackson, 5-9, 165, jr.

OL Timmy McCann, 6-3, 270, sr.

DL/LB Cavan McKeirnan, 6-4, 185, sr.

DL Luke Miller, 6-3, 225, sr.

RB Sam Ohman, 6-2, 185, sr.

OL Patrick Reilly, 5-9, 225, sr.

OL Drake Watko, 6-3, 285, sr.

Read More

THREE TO SEE

Bo Howell, wide receiver

Basketball standout still learning sport, but oozes with high-upside playmaking talent.

Luke Miller, defensive lineman

Next-level force will play similar be-everywhere role as ex-all-state MVP Evan Weaver.

Drake Watko, left guard

Timmy McCann is returning all-GSL guard, but big-framed Watko ready to bust out.

SEASON OUTLOOK

Just because Greater Spokane League player of the year Ryan McKenna is gone and cannot create chaos on league foes, or the rest of Class 4A anymore - that doesn't mean Gonzaga Prep is quite finished yet.

The Bullpups return nine of 11 starters on offense, including seven linemen who started at least one game in 2021. Five seniors are expected to lead the way in the starting lineup this fall.

Fuel for the triple option comes in Nick Bankey and Sam Ohman, the team's returning starting wingbacks. And Bo Howell at wide receiver is a rusher, pass catcher and blocker - all at a high level.

On defense, the duo of Luke Miller and Cavan McKeirnan is expected to apply backfield pressure from the line in the same vain as GSL defensive MVP Kaz Melzer and Ephraim Watkins.

"The shell is there," Gonzaga Prep coach David McKenna said.

The Bullpups' most pertinent question might also be the biggest mystery in Spokane - how does the offense fill the gaping hole left by Ryan McKenna?

That answer should come from senior JoJo Shortell, McKenna's longtime backup.

"JoJo saw some varsity time (last fall), and also played JV," David McKenna said. "He's a great leader. He's a smart kid. And he's been in our system for four years."

The coach said behind closed doors, the two quarterbacks often watched film and compared game-scout notes together.

"They had a great relationship," David McKenna said. "JoJo is not as quick or as strong as Ryan, but it's not like he's a bad athlete. He took it to the house (for touchdowns) a couple times on big plays last year, and he throws it better than Ryan did."

Ryan McKenna proved time and time again that he was a premier playmaker who also orchestrated a nuanced offense to near-perfection. Can Shortell be a version of that?

"He is going to have to grow up pretty quickly, even though he's not new to the game," David McKenna said.

2022 SCHEDULE

  • Sept. 2 vs. Cheney
  • Sept. 10 at St. John's College
  • Sept. 16 at Ferris
  • Sept. 23 at Mead
  • Sept. 30 vs. Ridgeline
  • Oct. 6 vs. University
  • Oct. 14 at Central Valley
  • Oct. 21 vs. Mount Spokane
  • Oct. 28 vs. Lewis & Clark