Tradition could be tough to upend in the CWAC this season with two familiar teams rising back to the top.
Prosser and Ellensburg returned to their usual positions, splitting a pair of matchups and earning the league’s two state berths. The Mustangs and Bulldogs bring back enough talent this fall to establish themselves as favorites, although Prosser coach Corey Ingvalson won’t be taking anything for granted.
“Teams step up and players rise up that maybe no one thought (would),” Ingvalson said. “I really don’t know.”
But other schools surely know it will be a challenge for defenses to stop first-team all-CWAC players like Prosser wide receiver Will Thompson and Ellensburg running backs Dion Hardeman and Henry Rinehart. Quarterbacks Haden Hicks of Prosser, who led the league in receiving before an injury last year, and Ellensburg’s Ryan Ferguson, a proven passer, also possess the talent to ensure their schools’ dominance continues.
From 2010-2016 the Bulldogs and Mustangs combined to go 113-15 in league play with three titles each, ending five of the seven seasons in the top two spots. But in 2017, the CWAC’s first year featuring two divisions, neither powerhouse reached the inaugural title game, which saw Selah rout Othello 52-0.
The Vikings fell just short in a 28-23 loss to Prosser last season, and they lost most of their skill players with the departure of an outstanding senior class. Still, coach Scott Ditter believes his returners put in the work needed during the offseason to pose a threat in the South division.
Toppenish could also make some noise with first team wide receiver and defensive back Manuel Felan leading the way alongside four returning all-league lineman. Reigning CWAC South coach of the Year Jason Smith’s Wildcats won five in a row last season before injuries and a tough late schedule sent them into a downward spiral.
Othello beat Ellensburg last season and returns Brigham Young commit Isaiah Perez at running back and defensive end, joining Isaac Barragan in one of the league’s best backfields. Ephrata will look to a defense anchored by all-league selections Mac Laird, Carter Cox and Carter Mills as it deals with the key losses of quarterback Trenton Kleyn and CWAC North offensive MVP Josh Benthem.
Grandview and East Valley face off in an early inter-divisional meeting, looking to position themselves as dark horses in a deep league. Senior quarterback Rocco Parrish gives the Greyhounds an experienced leader, while first team tailback Tyler Stone provides a valuable offensive weapon for the Red Devils.
Ellensburg and new coach Jeff Zenisek will certainly be tested by road games at Ephrata and Othello, not to mention a nonleague trip to Prosser. The Mustangs open league play at home against Selah but will travel to Toppenish in October.