After all the offseason weight-room sessions, spring practices and summer camps, it’s time for the real deal.
High school football is back.
Prep football teams across the state kick off their fall practices Wednesday, which mark the official beginning of the 2019 season. Games are just 16 days away, with all local teams set to open the regular season Sept. 6.
All other fall high school sports begin practice Monday.
As the opening Friday night of football season draws ever closer, here’s one question for each of the five local leagues, plus a look at the many head-coaching changes for area teams this fall.
Wesco 4A: Can Lake Stevens make another deep run?
The perennial powerhouse Vikings return a bevy of talent from last year’s Class 4A state runner-up team, which finished 13-1 after falling to Union in the title game. Lake Stevens has a 38-game conference win streak and enters the season as the odds-on favorite to claim a seventh consecutive Wesco 4A crown. In three of the past four seasons, the Vikings have advanced to at least the state quarterfinals.
Wesco 3A North: Will a local team unseat Squalicum and Ferndale?
Since Squalicum and Ferndale joined the Wesco 3A North in 2016, the two former Northwest Conference members have combined to win three straight league titles. Squalicum claimed the Wesco 3A North crown in 2016, Ferndale won it in 2017 and Squalicum took the title again last year. The last Snohomish County team to win the league crown was Arlington in 2015.
Wesco 3A South: Who wins this wide-open league?
The Wesco 3A South has had four different champions over the past four seasons. Defending league champion Snohomish advanced to state last year, but is tasked with replacing four starting offensive linemen and star running back Tyler Massena from its powerful rushing attack. The Panthers’ biggest challengers appear to be Shorecrest and Meadowdale, which both have experience-laden teams.
Northwest 2A: Can Archbishop Murphy bounce back?
The Wildcats are looking to rebound from a stunning 37-9 season-ending loss to Sehome in last year’s Week 10 winner-to-state round. It ended a streak of three consecutive 2A state semifinal appearances for Archbishop Murphy, which won a state title in 2016. The Wildcats also have a new coach, as former assistant Mark Leone replaced Jerry Jensen.
North Sound Conference: Will CPC continue its rise?
Cedar Park Christian graduated just four players from last year’s 7-2 team, which claimed the first league title in the program’s 14-year history. The Eagles’ biggest challenger again figures to be King’s, which was last year’s league runner-up. The Knights also return the bulk of their roster and are looking to rebound from rare back-to-back losing seasons.
NEW FACES ROAMING THE SIDELINES
There was a slew of coaching turnover in the area this offseason. Eight local teams will take the field with new head coaches this fall. Here’s a look at the changes.
Jackson: Mason Siddick replaces longtime coach Joel Vincent, who stepped down after 21 seasons. A native of Zimbabwe, Siddick was a former co-captain and assistant coach at Carroll College in Montana, where he was part of three NAIA national titles during his playing career.
Meadowdale: James Harmon takes over for Matt Leonard, who moved to Texas for a pair of coaching jobs (football and wrestling) after four seasons with the Mavericks. Harmon was Meadowdale’s defensive coordinator the past three years.
Archbishop Murphy: Leone takes over as an interim head coach. He replaces Jensen, who coached the Wildcats for the past six seasons and guided them to the 2A state title in 2016. Leone, a 2006 Archbishop Murphy graduate, played for the Wildcats and was an assistant coach with the program in recent years.
Mountlake Terrace: After a four-year hiatus, Tony Umayam is back as the head coach at his alma mater. Umayam coached Mountlake Terrace from 2004 through 2014, leading the Hawks to some of the best seasons in program history before stepping down to take a break from coaching. He replaces Kelly Dougan, who guided Mountlake Terrace the past four years.
Cedarcrest: Former University of Washington standout linebacker John Fiala replaces Billy Ojeda, who coached the Red Wolves for the past four seasons. Fiala was a second-team All-Pac-10 selection with the Huskies in 1996 and spent five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was a special-teams captain.
Sultan: Rick Rudd replaces Jim Wright, who coached the Turks the past two years. Rudd is Sultan’s fourth head coach in five seasons.