The new Class 2A Northwest District football league consists of 11 teams split into an upper Sky division and a lower Lake division. Below are capsules for the four local teams in the district-wide league.
ARCHBISHOP MURPHY WILDCATS
Last season: 11-2, 5-0 in Cascade Conference play (lost in state semifinals)
Coach: Jerry Jensen (sixth season)
Key players: Victor Gabalis, jr., QB; Dillon Halpin, sr., WR/DB; Walter Hines, sr., WR/DB; Luke Riojas, sr., LB/RB; Zion Robinson, jr., OL/DL; Josiah Santiago, jr., RB/DB
Outlook: Archbishop Murphy graduated numerous key players from last year’s team, whose quest for a second consecutive state title fell short with a 10-6 loss to Tumwater in the state semifinals. The biggest void to replace is two-way star Kyler Gordon, an exceptional defensive back and multi-purpose athlete who signed with the University of Washington last winter as the state’s top-ranked senior recruit. Other significant losses include 2,000-yard rusher Ray Pimentel and standout linebacker Ben Hines. Anchoring the Wildcats’ defense this fall will be senior linebacker Luke Riojas, who was the team’s second-leading tackler last season with 55 total tackles. Archbishop Murphy also returns senior receiver Dillon Halpin, second-year starting quarterback Victor Gabalis and two-way linemen Zion Robinson and JP Land-Quinn. After steamrolling league opponents in recent years in the since-disbanded Cascade Conference, the Wildcats will face a significantly tougher slate this fall in the juggernaut Sky division.
Last season: 7-3, 5-1 in Northwest Conference play (lost in Week 10 playoffs)
Coach: Dan Teeter (13th season)
Key players: Keegan Bach, soph., OL/DL; David Golovin, sr., OL/DL; Spencer Neiffer, sr., RB/LB; Sean Phillips, sr., WR/DB; Landen Pruitt, jr., RB/LB; Jackson Schultz, jr., WR/DB; Morgan Stacey, jr., WR/DB; Jared Taylor, jr., QB/DB; Ian Ware, sr., WR/DB/P; Gavin Wright, sr., OL/LB
Outlook: Lakewood graduated a handful of all-conference players from last year’s team, which captured a three-way share of the Northwest Conference 2A crown in just the program’s second season in the powerhouse league. The biggest voids to replace are record-setting quarterback Austin Lane, who was a three-year starter for the Cougars, and two-way standout receiver and defensive lineman Jon Cox III. Junior quarterback Jared Taylor is set to replace Lane, and coach Dan Teeter lauded his team’s deep group of receivers and defensive backs. New standouts will need to emerge for Lakewood to be successful in the loaded Sky division.
CEDARCREST RED WOLVES
Last season: 0-9, 0-5 in Cascade Conference play
Coach: Billy Ojeda (fourth season)
Key players: Carter Briggs, sr., OL/DL; Tyler Gray, sr., RB/DB; Gavin McDermott, sr., QB/DB; Jonathan Mumford, sr., OL/DL; Tyler Ramirez, sr., RB/LB; Freddy Reid, sr., RB/LB; Cody Schultz, sr., DL/TE
Outlook: The Red Wolves will look to be more competitive this year after being outscored by 23.6 points per game last season during a winless campaign.
MOUNTLAKE TERRACE HAWKS
Last season: 5-5, 1-5 in Wesco 3A South play
Coach: Kelly Dougan (fourth season)
Key players: Brandon Bach, sr., WR/DB/P; Mustafa Balikci, sr., DB; George DeVries, sr., LB; Dominique Latham, sr., WR/DB; Jesse Martineau, sr., QB; JaBrae Richardson, sr., RB/LB; Jordan Sims, soph., RB/LB; Noah Thompson, jr., OL/DL/K
Outlook: After struggling the past two seasons as the lone 2A team in the Wesco 3A South, the all-2A Lake division should provide a more level playing field for Mountlake Terrace. The Hawks return senior Brandon Bach, a dynamic multi-purpose athlete who had 43 receptions for 759 yards and nine touchdowns last year. Also returning is senior quarterback Jesse Martineau, a two-star prospect who is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 108 senior recruit in the state.