We’re really entering the home stretch of the season now, and every game means something for teams jockeying for playoff spots and seeding. And there’s plenty of teams still fighting for both.
In this edition of TFQ, we’ll look at some of those races, two challenges facing No. 2 Federal Way, a huge four-game stretch for Bothell running back Danny Wilson and a division-deciding game between two ranked, one-loss teams: Glacier Peak and Meadowdale.
As always, we’ll have big performances and rankings, including an explanation for this week’s poll, at the bottom of the post.
But first, after a dominant night against Mount Si on Friday, we’ll take a look at national rankings and how Bellevue got to be in the top five.
A story worth watching
There is no precise formula to putting together rankings. Not when looking at teams in a city. Not when looking at teams across a state. And especially not when looking at teams across the country.
Yet every week Max Preps and Sports Illustrated have the unenviable task of putting out national rankings comparing teams that, with a few exceptions, will never play. It’s kind of like picking the best actor or a favorite restaurant. Everyone has their own opinion, and everyone is certain their opinion is right.
After Bellevue’s convincing 49-10 win against No. 2 Mount Si on Friday night, I decided to look into how the national rankings work and how they come together. I also wanted to get a sense for where Bellevue stood in the eyes of the guys in charge of these rankings: Sports Illustrated’s Gabriel Baumgaertner and MaxPrep’s Stephen Spiewak.
Bellevue sat at No. 4 in Sports Illustrated’s poll entering the Mount Si game and fifth in the MaxPreps’ poll.
Baumgaertner says he combs through local papers in order to get a sense for where teams stand. He also focuses heavily on teams that hold teams to single digits since most good teams feature enough weapons to put up plenty of points.
Spiewak says MaxPreps sends out about 1,000 surveys to coaches in February to gauge what players are returning, what players are gone and where coaches see their team ending up. That gives them an idea of which teams might be worthy of national recognition.
The sense I get from both guys is this: Bellevue has a leg up because the school is already nationally known from years of winning, which automatically puts the Wolverines on the map. And Bellevue schedules out-of-state games, which offers up some comparison.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Bellevue hasn’t allowed an in-state opponent to hang within 28 points this season.
“They’ve done everything they can,” MaxPrep’s Spiewak said. “They’ve just been phenomenal. Moving forward, it’s tough because you can only play who is on your schedule. I don’t think that we consciously penalize teams for winning their schedule. But it wouldn’t surprise me if a team jumped Bellevue that has maybe a more difficult road to the state title.”
Bellevue is a loaded team with talent all over the field. Linebackers Myles Jack and Sean Constantine are future Pac 12 players, while Budda Baker, only a junior, will play big-time college football one day. But most of the Wolverines are guys who either won’t play college ball or won’t do so at the highest level.
Michael Carlson has offers from Montana and Montana State, Darien Freeman has yet to receive an offer and Reuben Mwehla is committed to Idaho.
Manatee (SI No. 1) from Bradenton, Fla., has at least six guys capable of playing Division I next year. Santa Margarita (SI No. 2) from California also has at least six guys, including two committed to UW (OL Dane Crane and DB Connor O’Brien) and one committed to Washington State (ATH River Cracraft). John Curtis (Si No. 3) from River Ridge, La., has at least seven players.
It should be noted, though, that St. Ignatius from Cleveland only has a couple of D-I guys.
“Yes, it’s a little low to have two or three Division-I guys,” Baumgaertner said, “but in a traditionally strong program like Belleuve that runs such an efficient and well-oiled system, they don’t need overflowing Division-I talent. They know exactly how to build these teams and how to maximize productivity out of these players.”
For the record, Spiewak says he sees Skyline as a top 50 to 75 team.
Big games and bits and pieces
Another clash between ranked 3A teams
Not long ago it looked as if Meadowdale and Glacier Peak would meet as two unbeatens clashing for the WesCo 3A South title.
But then Glacier Peak lost to 4A Bothell two weeks ago and Meadowdale lost to 4A Eastlake on Friday. And while the results put a dent in both team’s records, the out-of-league losses do nothing to diminish the importance of Friday’s game.
Meadowdale (6-1) enters as the sixth-ranked team in 3A while Glacier Peak (6-1) sits at seventh.
“I think our players are mature enough to understand that obviously you’d rather win the game against Eastlake,” Meadowdale coach Mark Stewart said, “but the big one is this week. I think we’ll rally around what we have to do this week and everything that it means.”
Besides the simple fact that it will decide a division race, this one is intriguing for another reason: It’s a clash of styles. Meadowdale is a defense-centric team that relies on running the ball. That could be even more important this week:
Meadowdale will play without starting quarterback Brian Marty, who is out for the second straight week with a leg injury. Jeremiah Evans, a 6-foot-2 junior, will start again in his place.
Glacier Peak, meanwhile, is a high-powered offense that relies on the accuracy of quarterback Chris Becerra and the playmaking ability of Sean Elledge and Michael Palmer.
“Our games seem to always come down to our ability to have some ball control and control their explosive offense,” Stewart said. “That’s kind of been the MO of our games. That’s what the game is probably going to boil down to.”
Federal Way to face toughest tests of the season
Federal Way is a group rich with talent — Chico McClatcher, Mike Tate, D’Londo Tucker and quarterback Evan Elliott, to name a few guys. And so far this season, No. 2 Federal Way has rolled along without many hiccups.
The Eagles have scored 40 points in every game this season. They’ve scored more than 60 points twice. They’ve won every game by at least 27 points.
But if the Eagles are going to be challenged before the playoffs start, it’s going to be in the next two weeks. First up is Auburn. The Trojans are 6-1 this year, with their only loss coming to undefeated Kentwood, and feature one of the area’s biggest big-play threats in Harold Lee.
After that, Federal Way plays Curtis, a team that is also 6-1 and sits in second in the SPSL 4A South.
Bothell RB Danny Wilson saving his best for last
After Bothell’s 33-6 win against Eastlake three weeks ago, Danny Wilson, Jr. and Danny Wilson, Sr. started talking about the rest of the season. The younger Wilson had just come off a monster game — 247 yards and three touchdowns — and the elder Wilson told his son what he needed to do the rest of the way.
“He was telling me I was going to need to have more games like that if we were going to keep winning,” the younger Wilson said.
So far, Wilson has upheld his end of the bargain. After a slow start in which Bothell opened the year 0-3, Wilson has been perhaps the biggest catalyst for getting the Cougars (4-3) back on track with four straight wins.
In his last four games — all Bothell wins — he has rushed for 913 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is averaging 14.4 yards per carry and has shown he can run with power as well as speed.
He had his best outing in Bothell’s win against Inglemoor in the Spaghetti Bowl on Friday, rushing for a career-high 364 yards and five touchdowns on just 16 carries. That’s 22.8 yards per carry.
“It’s my last year and this season is getting shorter and shorter,” Wilson said. “I guess I’ve got to put the team on my back and buckle down if we want to make the playoffs. That’s what I’ve been doing. And it’s not just me. It’s the whole team really.”
Sophomore quarterback Ross Bowers has nine touchdowns in his last four games, which has all come after he struggled in that 27-11 loss to Capital in Week 3.
The defense has played better too, forcing turnovers and shutting down a potent Glacier Peak offense two weeks ago.
Yet Wilson who has shouldered the bulk of Bothell’s offensive production. Always fast, Wilson has worked on waiting for his blocks to develop instead of simply taking off.
“Earlier in the year, you can see it in my film that I wasn’t letting my blocks set up and outrunning my blockers,” he said. “I was just trying to do too much.”
Now Wilson and his team have one more obstacle to clear this regular season: An end-of-the-year showdown against Woodinville (6-1) that will decide the KingCo 4A Crest Division. Woodinville has won four straight games since suffering a 32-point loss to Newport.
Metro League races
The races in the Metro League are over. Eastside Catholic (7-0) wrapped up the Mountain Division title with a 35-21 win against O’Dea on Friday. The win is one that, before the game, second-year Eastside Catholic coach Jeremy Thielbahr said would provide his team with some “payoff” for their hard work.
Nathan Hale also has the Sound Division wrapped up after a 49-7 win against Ingraham improved the Raiders to 6-1 overall and 5-0 in league play.
The two teams will meet for the Metro League title after the regular season. The winner will get the Metro League’s top seed in the playoffs while the loser automatically gets the league’s second seed.
Mount Rainier gets first win of the season
It’s been a tough season for Mount Rainier. The Rams started the season with six straight losses, including two by way of shutout.
But on Friday night, against Jefferson, the Rams grabbed their first win of the season with a 23-0 win. Amani Brown led the way with 172 rushing yards, the defense had three interceptions and the Rams blocked a punt to end their losing streak.
Bothell’s Danny Wilson carried 17 times for 364 yards and five touchdowns.
Lake Washington’s Daniel Porras carried 30 times for 192 yards and a touchdown.
Curtis’ Scott Wismer passed for three touchdowns, all over 40 yards.
Issaquah’s Jack Gellatly rushed for four touchdowns.
Seattle Prep’s Tere Calloway rushed 27 times for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
Oak Harbor’s Sheyenne Sams scored on a 76-yard pass, a 50-yard pass and a 1-yard run.
Skyline’s Max Browne completed 19 of 24 passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns.
Juanita’s Kendrick Murphy scored on touchdowns of 65 and 51 yards and returned an interception for a touchdown.
Graham-Kapowsin’s Teague James scored three rushing touchdowns, including on runs of 71 yards and 33 yards.
Edmonds-Woodway’s Desmond Young scored three rushing touchdowns on runs of 41, 22 and 20 yards.
Mariner’s Joshua Williamson carried 31 times for 172 yards and five touchdowns.
Archbishop Murphy’s Alex Galgano rushed for four touchdowns.
Auburn’s Harold Lee returned an interception 87 yards for a touchdown and scored on a 65-yard run.
King’s Caleb Taylor had five catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
I normally don’t put explanations for why I rank teams because usually my explanation is pretty simple: If I have a team ranked, I think they will lose to the teams ranked ahead of them and beat all the ranked and (unranked) teams below them.
But this week is a little different. This week, I have two teams that I think I should explain.
The first is in 4A, where I put Bothell (4-3) at No. 10 after Newport lost to Skyline on Friday night. Before the season, Bothell was a unanimous top-five team. The Cougars had tons of talent and experience at most key positions. But then they lost a close game to Skyline, got crushed by Bellevue and couldn’t recover against Capital. All three of those teams are ranked.
Yet Bothell has played like a completely different team since then. Running back Danny Wilson has emerged as a beast. Quarterback Ross Bowers has thrown at least two touchdowns in each of his last four games. And the defense has played better too.
Bothell played well against Skyline in the season-opener and then didn’t look good at all against Bellevue. The one that really hurt the Cougars was the Capital game, when nothing seemed to go right.
I looked at Curtis and Auburn and Graham-Kapowsin for that final spot in 4A. You could make a legitimate case for all of them. They are all good teams with better records. But, at the end of the day, I think Bothell is a top-10 team in 4A, regardless of their record, and I don’t want to punish the Cougars for scheduling tough non-league games.
The second ranking in need of explanation is in 3A, where I decided to keep Mount Si at No. 2. I thought long and hard about this. Mount Si got crushed by Bellevue — it was 49-3 at the half. At the same time, Eastside Catholic took down third-ranked O’Dea by 14 points. It was a huge win for the undefeated Crusaders.
When I boiled everything down, I came to the conclusion that Mount Si is still the second-best team in the state, regardless of what happened against Bellevue. The Wildcats had allowed only 14 points all year before the Bellevue game, and they shutout quality teams in Issaquah and Kennedy Catholic along the way.
I just don’t think many teams would look good against Bellevue this year. The Wolverines are just that talented. And so Mount Si stays at No. 2.
1. Skyline (Sammamish) (7-0)
2. Federal Way (7-0)
3. Camas (7-0)
4. Gonzaga Prep (Spokane) (7-0)
5. Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma) (6-1)
6. Mead (Spokane) (6-1)
7. Kentwood (Covington) (7-0)
8. Skyview (Vancouver) (5-2)
9. Ferris (Spokane) (6-1)
10. Bothell (4-3)
Dropped out: Newport (4-3)
1. Bellevue (7-0)
2. Mount Si (Snoqualmie) (6-1)
3. Eastside Catholic (Sammamish) (7-0)
4. Kennedy Catholic (Burien) (5-1)
5. O’Dea (Seattle) (5-2)
6. Meadowdale (Lynnwood) (6-1)
7. Glacier Peak (Snohomish) (6-1)
8. Ferndale (7-0)
9. Timberline (Lacey) (6-1)
10. Oak Harbor (6-1)
Dropped out: Shelton (6-1)
1. Othello (6-0)
2. Capital (Olympia) (5-2)
3. Lynden (6-1)
4. Prosser (6-1)
5. Lakewood (7-0)
6. Tumwater (6-1)
7. Mark Morris (Longview) (6-1)
8. W.F. West (Chehalis) (5-2)
9. Archbishop Murphy (Everett) (4-2)
10. West Valley (Spokane) (6-1)
Dropped out: East Valley (Spokane) (5-2)