Not often referred to as a football powerhouse, Washington High School is on the verge of rewriting history this season, thanks to the Patriots’ dynamic duo on offense.
Seniors Victor Gamboa and Ramsey Davis, who line up at wide receiver and running back, respectively, for the Patriots, provide a punch that few teams in the state have, let alone in the 2A South Puget Sound League.
Gamboa had 56 catches for 1,098 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, while Davis was just as productive with 135 carries for 1,323 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“There is a lot of stuff they do that’s not necessarily because of coaching. It’s because they’re special,” said Patriots coach Mike Van Rueden, whose team finished 5-5 last season. “They play off each other. If Ramsey is having a great game, they might forget about Victor for a play, and vice versa.”
Gamboa also acknowledged the benefit of having two major offensive weapons.
“Instead of having the defense (keep an) eye on me the whole game, they’re scared of the running that we have,” said the 6-foot Gamboa, who also excels in track, finishing fourth in state in the 110-meter hurdles. “They take their eyes off of me so it makes me more open for a touchdown and getting more yards for me.”
Jordan Mezias, a three-year starter at quarterback, said the connection he has with Gamboa and Davis dates back to before high school.
“Victor, Ramsey and me, we have been (in) football together every single year since like fifth grade,” said the 5-foot-8 Mezias, who threw for 1,335 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
“Football comes to us naturally and with all the talent this year, it does make everything a lot easier.”
Football comes naturally for Gamboa, who is being recruited by several top Northwest programs, including Washington State, Oregon State and Eastern Washington.
Despite all the attention, Gamboa is motivated by one goal – changing the history of football at Washington High School.
“It’s very important. That’s all we’ve been talking about lately,” Gamboa said. “We need to make this school known. We have to put them on the map for football before we leave.
“That’s always been our goal since we came here.”
On the Throne
Defending champion Franklin Pierce returns the fewest starters, but the defense was so good last season that the Cardinals get the nod.
In the Spotlight
He catches passes, runs fast and yes – he blocks. He is Washington High receiver Victor Gamboa, the reigning league MVP.
Change is Good
Ex-Nisqually League member Orting made it to the state quarterfinals the last time it was a 2A school (2005).
By the Numbers
Steilacoom returns its entire offensive line, and Sentinels seniors together count 70 varsity starts in the past two seasons.
Franklin Pierce (8-3 in 2011), Washington (5-5), Steilacoom (7-4), White River (7-3), Sumner (4-6), Orting (4-6), Fife (3-7), Clover Park (3-7).
Mark the Date
Oct. 26: Washington at Franklin Pierce, Franklin Pierce Stadium, 7 p.m.
Todd Milles, staff writer
CLOVER PARK WARRIORS
Coach: Jon Randall, ninth year
2011 record: 3-7, 6th in league.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Kyle Hagman (spread). Returning starters – 7. Top players –WR Brady Daly, 6-0, 175, sr.; OL Tyler Delgado, 6-3, 270, jr.; OL Niko Ekeroma, 6-3, 290, jr.; OL Vela Faitalia, 5-9, 265, sr.; RB Brandon Pritchett, 6-2, 245, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Jon Randall (4-3). Returning starters – 8. Top players – LB Rich Faitalia, 6-0, 200, Jr.; LB Larry Fourquerean, 5-10, 205, Sr.; DL Torri Glaspie, 6-2, 215, Sr.; DL Dominique Thibault, 5-9, 280, Jr.
Outlook: For all those seasons the Warriors were rich in skill-position talent, now it’s time for the big men on campus to step forward. Randall said he thinks both lines are better than the veteran groups he had in 2004 – the last time Clover Park made the state playoffs.
Coach: Kent Nevin, 10th year
2011 record: 3-7, 8th in league.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Carlton Cooper (jet wing-T). Returning starters – 7. Top players – WR Nolan Breck, 5-10, 160, sr.; RB Dominic Dutra, 5-9, 180, sr.; RB Dillon Fisher, 5-6, 155, jr.; TE Kaleb McGary, 6-8, 270, jr.; QB Andrew Waltner, 5-10, 185, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Kent Nevin (3-4). Returning starters – 7. Top players – DL Abe Afoa, 6-1, 280, jr.; LB Domingo Afoa, 5-8, 205, jr.; DL Monike Failauga, 6-2, 305, jr.; DL Scott Rhodes, 5-10, 180, sr.
Outlook: Fife suffered through a rough patch last season. But Nevin has a rare 2A commodity heading into 2012 – big athletes who are NCAA Division I-type recruits. Failauga is a stalwart at defensive tackle and McGary – a transfer from Battle Ground – could be a next-level offensive tackle.
FRANKLIN PIERCE CARDINALS
Coach: Howard Lutton, 25th year
2011 record: 8-3, 1st in league; lost in 2A first round.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Howard Lutton (multiple spread). Returning starters – 5. Top players – TE Brett Carter, 6-4, 200, jr.; RB Quents Harris, 5-8, 145, sr.; RB Hassan Kitt, 6-1, 200, sr.; QB Reilley Peirce, 6-0, 195, sr.; WR Saul Rodriguez, 5-9, 165, jr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Andy Armstrong (3-5). Returning starters – 3. Top players – LB Brett Carter, 6-4, 200, jr.; LB Daimoni Delavergne, 5-9, 175, jr.; LB Devin Hamilton, 5-11, 205, jr.; DB Jamal Harris, 5-11, 170, sr.; DB Justin Holden, 5-9, 160, sr.
Outlook: The coaches’ preseason pick, and it is easy to see why. Last season, the Cardinals’ defense dominated. Throw in the fact they return Peirce, the league’s top dual threat, and even though Franklin Pierce is breaking in a new cast, the Cardinals should have another big season.
Coach: Marty Parkhurst, 19th year
2011 record: 4-6, 4th in Nisqually League; lost in 1A districts.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Marty Parkhurst (fly wing-T). Returning starters – 10. Top players – QB Trevor Grzelak, 6-2, 180, sr.; RB Connor Rose, 5-10, 180, jr.; OL Randy Sackmann, 6-2, 220, sr.; RB/WR Christian Yoro, 5-8, 155, sr.; RB Jaysen Yoro, 5-10, 170, jr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Mitch Fowler (3-3-5). Returning starters – 9. Top players – LB Dillon Hayden, 6-1, 235, jr.; LB Connor Rose, 5-10, 180, jr.; DL Randy Sackmann, 6-2, 220, sr.; DB Christian Yoro, 5-8, 155, sr.
Outlook: The ultimate wild card in the league title chase. Parkhurst’s track record speaks for itself – nine state playoff berths – and entering 2A again, the Cardinals have plenty of depth. Their running game features three returners who amassed 300 or more yards last season.
Coach: Brian Koch, sixth year
2011 record: 7-4, 3rd in league; lost in 2A first round.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Brian Koch (wing-T). Returning starters – 7. Top players – WR Austin Jones, 5-10, 165, sr.; OL Jackson Leech, 6-1, 205, sr.; OB Jordan Leech, 6-2, 215, sr.; RB James Mack, 6-0, 170, sr.; OL Travis Pine, 5-10, 260, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – William Garrow (3-4). Returning starters – 8. Top players – DB Austin Jones, 5-10, 165, sr.; LB Jackson Leech, 6-1, 205, sr.; LB Jordan Leech, 6-2, 215, sr.; DL Travis Pine, 5-10, 260, sr.; DL John Santos, 5-10, 185, sr.
Outlook: Despite a high number of returning players, none are in the offensive backfield – including quarterback Lucas Mireles, who moved to Germany with his family. Koch will hand the keys to the wing-T offense to his own transfer – senior Patrick Thomas – who has not played football since middle school.
Coach: Keith Ross, 10th year
2011 record: 4-6, 7th in league.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Mike Ernaga (veer). Returning starters – 7. Top players – OL Marc Cisineros, 6-1, 240, sr.; OL Nick Farman, 6-0, 210, so.; RB Lokahi Kamau, 5-6, 180, sr.; OL Austin Striplin, 6-3, 245, jr.; QB Chase Torgison, 6-1, 190, so.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Keith Ross (4-4). Returning starters – 8. Top players - DB Mychal Hooser, 5-6, 140, sr.; DB Jeremy Jackson, 5-7, 160, sr.; DL Conner Mott, 6-1, 205, sr.; LB Austin Striplin, 6-3, 245, jr.; DL Bryson Tuilaepa, 6-3, 325, sr.
Outlook: How soon folks forget this was an SPSL 2A co-champion team in 2010 (and No. 1 seed to the district playoffs). So why are the Spartans a sleeper this season? They come off a rough season, but with a strong, speedy defense in place, Sumner could easily be a contender again.
Coach: Mike Von Rueden, fourth year
2011 record: 4-6, 5th in league.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Mike Von Rueden (wing-T hybrid). Returning starters – 7. Top players – RB Ramsey Davis, 5-9, 185, sr.; WR Victor Gamboa, 6-0, 180, sr.; QB Jordan Mezias, 5-8, 175, sr.; OL Diamond Pedro, 6-2, 300, sr.; OL Aaron Young, 6-2, 200, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Jim Wiedow (3-5). Returning starters – 8. Top players - LB Ramsey Davis, 5-9, 185, sr.; DL Ene Ene, 5-10, 255, sr.; DB Victor Gamboa, 6-0, 180, sr.; DL Darius Gill, 6-3, 310, sr.
Outlook: The last time the Patriots gave serious thought to a league title was 2000 when they were co-champions of the Pierce County League. With the best skill-position star power in the league in Gamboa and Davis, expectations are high for the Patriots.
WHITE RIVER HORNETS
Coach: Joe Sprouse, third year
2011 record: 7-3, 2nd in league; lost in 2A districts.
Offense: Coordinator – Joe Sprouse (fly). Returning starters – 7. Top players – WR Sean Hayes, 6-2, 185, jr.; WR Devin Liebel, 5-9, 165, sr.; QB Zach McMillen, 6-0, 205, sr.; RB Garrett Quiles, 5-9, 185, jr.
Defense: Coordinator – Ken Fagan (3-3). Returning starters – 8. Top players – DB Colton Altamirano, 5-10, 185, sr.; LB Keenan Fagan, 6-1, 180, jr.; LB Michael O’Connor, 6-1, 175, sr.; LB Austin Ross, 5-11, 190, jr.; LB Chris Skinner, 5-10, 200, sr.
Outlook: Despite graduating 17 seniors, the defending co-league champs’ veteran leadership will be strong again with 15 seniors, six of whom have started every game since their sophomore year. If injury issues stay away, and underclassmen step up, Sprouse’s team should be in contention for another league title.
Chris Wells, contributing writer