Keith Ross fell back into his seat. He was asked about this Sumner High School senior class. He exhaled and let out a deep breath.
“Well, they are 41-5, including their freshman team,” Ross said. “They are probably the greatest group of seniors ever. Since 1977 it’s got to be the most decorated time in Sumner history.”
There’s Ben Wilson headed to the Big-12 Conference to play linebacker at Texas Christian University (TCU), Tre Weed signed his letter of intent Wednesday morning to play at Eastern Washington University, while quarterback Luke Ross, the coach’s kid, found a spot at Valley City State University in North Dakota.
“My wife’s not excited about North Dakota,” Keith Ross said. “But we already have one trip planned.”
Sumner had five football signees, and nine athletes total, honored at the school Wednesday morning as part of National Signing Day, coming a year after the Spartans sent Connor Wedington to Stanford University.
Sumner will have 12 players in college football next year, counting previous classes. And this year’s class will be at all levels – FBS, FCS, NCAA Division II, NAIA and Division III.
Jeff Baines purposefully kept his ceremony speech brief. The Sumner athletic director could have talked much longer.
“But I knew if I kept going I wasn’t going to be able to hold it together,” he said.
“I grabbed Ben for a second today and I told him, ‘You will probably never understand the impact that you have made on this school.’ And, yet, he’s probably the quietest kid, in terms of being his status and his level of an athlete. This is an amazing group of young men sitting in our gymnasium going to college not just for athletics, but academics.”
Wilson actually signed his letter of intent in December, as part of the NCAA’s first-ever early football signing period. He chose TCU over Cal, Utah, Washington and Stanford in part because he said TCU felt like Sumner – and not just because their main colors are both purple.
His father, Jody Wilson, was a linebacker at Aurora University in Illinois, but they say he’s more of a spitting image of his uncle Leo Wilson, a Golden Gloves boxing champion in Illinois.
“It was so fun to see his growth. He’s so talented and has these special gifts you can’t buy,” Ross said. “And he stayed humble, even when he could have really big-timed us. It was the same with Connor. Connor never, ever big-timed us, either.”
Eastern Washington is getting arguably the biggest steal of the 2018 class of Washington athletes, with Tre Weed headed there after earning 4A South Puget Sound League MVP this season. It comes a year after Wedington was co-MVP of the league with fellow Stanford teammate Foster Sarell of Graham-Kapowsin.
Most of the area’s biggest recruits had already signed before Wednesday, with TNT All-Area player of the year Talan Alfrey already secured at BYU out of Auburn Mountainview, and Fife lineman M.J. Ale and Emerald Ridge defensive end Mosiah Nasili-Liu both signed to UW. Though up in Seattle, Garfield’s Tre’Shaun Harrison, The News Tribune’s state player of the year who was once verbally committed to Oregon, built some suspense and announced Wednesday morning he was signing with Florida State University, following the coach who recruited him to Oregon, Willie Taggart.
But then there was Auburn Riverside defensive back Jaden Robinson, who last week was offered by Oregon State University and signed there Wednesday morning after having not even playing football until he was a sophomore. Though, Ale was the same way at Fife.
“Jaden Robinson was a guy I identified at Washington,” said new Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith, the former UW offensive coordinator. “He came to our summer camp this last summer, competed like all get out and he can run. He ran a 10.7 (100-meter) as a junior. We feel great about his ability to cover and in this league, you got to be able to cover. Jaden will fit that bill.”
Graham-Kapowsin and Lakes had the most football signees, each with six securing their college futures.
And for G-K that wasn’t including UW commit Dylan Morris, the Eagles’ all-state junior quarterback.
But he’ll be without some of his biggest weapons next year. Graham-Kapowisn running back Micah Smith signed with Eastern Washington after leading the South Sound in rushing as a junior, with 228 carries for 2,028 yards. But injuries limited him to 101 carries for 622 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
That didn’t scare off EWU.
“He’s a three-down back and he will consistently impose his will on linebackers, defensive linemen and safeties when given the opportunity,” Best said. “He won a ton of games and was in the playoffs multiple times in high school. His huge smile is infectious and he’s great to be around.”
And both G-K and Lakes have two TNT All-Area players each who will be heading to Central Washington University as part of its huge signing class, Graham-Kapowsin with wide receiver Robert “Tre” Mason III and kicker Collin Manners, and Lakes with wide receiver Cody Roe and offensive lineman Hector Jasso III.
“Every opportunity we can get for kids we get excited about,” said 18-year Lakes coach Dave Miller. “But this one – this is one of the best senior classes I’ve had in terms of loyalty and hard work and chemistry. All of them played ball together in the sixth and seventh grade and grew up together.”
Alex Dangtuw is headed from Lakes to Weber State University in the Big Sky, where he committed to last week after being offered the Friday before. But that came despite breaking the fibula in his leg in the second week of his senior season.
“I was chasing my dream,” said Dangtuw, who was also considering offers from Idaho, Eastern Washington and Portland State. “I felt like it was home away from home. When I was down there it felt like Lakewood. Everything I love about Lakewood was there.”
Miller thought the injury might have deterred some Pac-12 schools. But Weber State coach Jay Hill has a history of developing defensive backs – having coached five who went on to the NFL.
“I think he’s a Division I corner that has a chance to be a great NFL Sunday corner,” Miller said. “I think he has that length and competitiveness and want-to.”
But it wasn’t just the players from the South Sound’s most successful programs securing their college futures.
Decatur finished 3-7 this past season, after four consecutive one-win seasons before that. Fourth-year coach Levi Suiaunoa stood proudly with his three players signing, including Navy-bound defensive lineman Quinzy Salu, who led the 4A NPSL Olympic with 18.5 tackles for losses and 8.5 sacks this season.
He’s another who said he has big-time football dreams.
“When I was in elementary school I always wanted to pursue going to the NFL,” said Salu, who is also the No. 2-ranked heavyweight wrestler in the state. He was considering offers from Navy, Air Force and Hawaii.
“In my 15 years of coaching, Quinzy is the hardest-working kid I’ve ever coached,” Suiaunoa said. “His motivation is internal. He didn’t look at the record, the score – he didn’t look at our success on the football field dictate how hard he worked.”
But all these signees had to work hard. Because only 6 percent of the 7.3 million high school student-athletes the NCAA tracked in a fact-sheet released this month moved on to a college in their respective sport. And just 6.8 percent of the 1.1 million high school football players advanced to college.
Keith Ross was asked how his program responds to losing their vaunted senior class.
“We’ll be back,” he said with a smile. “The next group is ready to go. Of course, we’re losing two of arguably the greatest players in Sumner history in the last 40 years. We’ll be a different team. But we’ll still be Sumner.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
SOUTH SOUND SIGNING DAY
Student-athletes from around the Sound Sound who are signing letters of intent or being honored on Feb. 7 for securing their collegiate futures.
Pa’Treon Lee, Men’s basketball, Lewis and Clark State College
Jason Brown Jr, Men’s basketball, Northwest University
Jacob Kludsikofsky, Football, Montana Tech University
Riley Dunne, men’s soccer, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
Tiano Malietufa, football, Central Washington University
Isaiah Prescott, football, Air Force Academy
Ciera Zimmerman, volleyball, Colorado State University
Calley Heilborn, volleyball, Western Washington University
Anna Maracich, volleyball, Western Washington University
Josh Hanigan, football, Linfield College
Chase Chandler, football, Air Force Academy
Christian Brown, football, University of San Diego
Max Bessler, rowing, Dartmouth
Sydney DeVita, women’s soccer, Grambling State
Elle Ferreira, women’s soccer, Haverford College
Jordan Lee, golf, Western Washington University
Morgan Bentley, golf, Weber State University
Joe Mansanarez, golf, Grays Harbor College
Shalyse Smith, women’s basketball, University of Arizona
Hannah Pukis, volleyball, Washington State University
Rylee Born, volleyball, Western Washington University
Peter Allegro, baseball, University of Portland
David Richards, baseball, University of British Columbia
Taylo Derouin, baseball, Edmonds College
Chelsea Smith, fastpitch, Hesston College
Calvin McKenna, lacrosse, Wentworth Institute of Technology
Tristyn Gese, football, Western Oregon University
Machiah Lee, football, Western Oregon University
Alex Vinton, football, Western Oregon University
Ethan Calapp, football, Simon Fraser University
Simba Sokimi, football, Redlands
Paige Davidson, volleyball, Redlands.
Brandon Kaylor, wrestling, Oregon State University
Carly Gibbon, volleyball, Central Washington University
Dana Gibbon, volleyball, Bellevue College
Kailyn Fleeman, women’s swimming, Notre Dame College of Ohio
Tyler McClain, baseball, Everett College
Kaiden Hammond, football, Central Washington University
Maria Smoot, cross country/track and field, Sterling College (Kansas)
Peyton Uznanski, fastpitch, Bethel College (Kansas)
Sydney Wilson, women’s soccer, Western Oregon University
Nicole Souply, women’s soccer, University of North Carolina-Greensboro
Taylor Beardemphl, women’s soccer, Northwest University
Tyquan Coleman, football, Central Washington University
Lauren Hudson, women’s soccer, Seattle University
Reece Wood, football, University of Puget Sound
Taj Moffett, football, University of Northern Iowa
Archie Caldwell, men’s soccer, Pacific Lutheran University
Dennis Keith, men’s cross country, Olympic College
Kendall Brockmann, women’s swimming, Oberlin
Roy Crawford-Taopiu, football, Eastern Oregon University
George Mensah, men’s soccer, Eastern Oregon University
Aubrey Smith, women’s soccer, Tacoma Community College
Quinzy Salu, football, U.S. Naval Academy
Sydney Victor, fastpitch, Pacific Lutheran
Dennis Kozorezov, mens soccer, Northwest College
Nick Schier, men's soccer, Wheeling Jesuit University
Madison Jumper, rugby, University of Quinnipiac
Connery McLaughlin, track and field, Arizona State University
Cortney Hunt, fastpitch, George Fox
Teagan Eldridge, soccer, Western Washington University
Chaella Galapon, fastpitch, Pacific Lutheran University
Tupu Lologo, volleyball, Western Washington University
Molly Saeda, volleyball, University of Puget Sound
Evan Brewer, men’s soccer, Tacoma Community College
Mark Wright, baseball, Edmonds College
MJ Ale, football, University of Washington
Madison Licari, track and field, Seattle Pacific University
Falani Maileoi, rugby, Central Washington University
Tomasi Puletu, rugby, Central Washington University
Micah Smith, football, Eastern Washington University
Robert Mason, football, Central Washington University
Collin Manners, football, Central Washington University
Viliami Hansen, football, College of Idaho
Jordan Duvall, football, Western Oregon University
Kasai Childress, football, Weber State University (PWO)
Makayla Blackburn, soccer, Pierce College
Bowen McConville, football, Simon Fraser University
Kendell Oakes, football, Central Washington University
Jeffrey Tinae, football, Montana State University Northern
Olivia Carter, women’s soccer, University of Nevada-Reno
Marques Fuala’au, rugby, Central Washington University
Tiffany Pardey, fastpitch, Howard College (Texas)
Tony Heimann, football, Missouri Valley College
Alexis Newsom, women’s soccer, Holy Names University (Calif.)
Justin Seiber, football, Simon Fraser University
Mason Glover, football, Simon Fraser University
Lionelletui (Tui) Mulitauaopele, football, Central Washington
Alex McGeachy, football, Central Washington
Cade Harris, football, Montana Tech
Alex Dangtuw, football, Weber State University
Hector Jasso, football, Central Washington University
Cody Roe, football, Central Washington University
Devin Kostelecky, football, Linfield College
Manny Borrero-Lewis, football, Dakota Wesleyan University
Na’Hoku Agor, football, Dakota Wesleyan University
Myesha Moss, women’s soccer, Columbia Basin College
Kaitlyn Letellier, women’s soccer, Columbia Basin College
Tristian Kwon, football, Air Force Academy
Jaylen Antoine, football, University of Puget Sound
Megan McSheffrey, women’s track and field, Biola University
Samantha Johnson, volleyball, University of Puget Sound
Abigail VanMarter, volleyball, Pierce College
Josie Kirk, women’s soccer, Yakima Valley Community College
Alex Beloate, football, University of Redlands
Jace Keim, football, Pacific Lutheran University
Semontae Andrews, football, Scottsdale Junior College (Arizona)
Josh Hutchins, football, Scottsdale Junior College (Arizona)
Kate Caviezel, women’s golf, California Lutheran University
Ariel Clark, fastpitch, Pacific Lutheran University
Maddy Clark, beach volleyball, Concordia University-Irvine
Colten Ellson, men’s swimming, The College of Idaho
Maddy Glasoe, fastpitch, Boise State University
Ellie Hamel, women’s basketball, Simpson University
Nick Waterstraat, men’s basketball, California Lutheran University
Sunny Bieber, women’s soccer, Evergreen State College
Alyssandra Espindola, women’s soccer, Missouri Valley College
Brooke Johnston, women’s soccer, University of Montana
Landen Neff, football, Central Washington University
Anna Saelens, volleyball, Northwest University
Kaitlin Sugai, volleyball, Eastern Washington University
Elizabeth Bowen, women’s soccer, Blue Mountain Community College
Drew Worden, baseball, University of Washington
Dusty Garcia, baseball, Arizona State University
Alex Garcia, baseball, Edmonds Community College
Mason Eaglin, wrestling, Duke University
Grant Larson, men’s soccer, Northwest Nazarene
Savannah Foster, men’s soccer, University of Idaho
Samantha Larberg, women’s soccer, Northern Arizona University
Sophie Painter, women's soccer, Yakima Valley Community College
Ben Wilson, football, Texas Christian University
Tre Weed, football, Eastern Washington University
Luke Ross, football, Valley City State Universoty
Austin Roth, football, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
Torben Deese, football, Claremont McKenna College
Ryan Griffith, men's soccer, Pacific Lutheran University
Maddie Gustafson, women’s soccer, University of Idaho
Sydney Lange, women’s soccer, Idaho State University
Jordan Bush-Johnson, football, Western Oregon University
Cole Hutton, football, Idaho Wesleyan
Nate Maassen, football, College of Idaho
Joey Pascua, men’s basketball, Multnomah University
Jacob Bacon, baseball, Columbia Basin
Adam Paganelli, baseball, Tacoma Community College
Jake Green, baseball, Pierce College
Dawson Besst, cross country/track and field, Colorado State University
Natalie Wright, women’s soccer, Yakima Valley College
Katarina Zosel, cross country/track and field, Colorado School of the Mines
Katelyn Reeves, women’s soccer/lacrosse, Bellevue College
Connor Heintz, men’s soccer, Linfield College
Patience O’Neal, volleyball, Concordia University-Irvine
Abigail Despain, women’s soccer, Seattle Pacific University
Breanna Glover, cross country/track and field, Dartmouth College
Chase Bowes, football, College of Idaho
Michael Barnes, football, Montana Tech
Conner Warick, football, Oregon State (PWO)
Mason Simeta, football, Western Oregon
Isaac Thompson, football, Western Oregon University
Tate Wallat, baseball, Everett College
Ayden Adams, baseball, Everett College
Tommy Davis, baseball, Lower Columbia CC
Drew Bonds, football, Rocky Mountain College (Montana)
Haylee Gunter, women’s soccer, Montana State-Billings
Annabelle Hall, women’s soccer, Eastern Washington University