When football fans think about the 2A Central Washington Athletic Conference, three things come to mind immediately: Prosser, Ellensburg and Othello.
Those programs are perennially at or near the top of the standings every year.
This season should be no different. All three teams — plus Selah and Toppenish — have plenty of talent.
It all begins on Friday, Sept. 6.
Here’s what you should know about the CWAC this season:
A basketball star shall lead Prosser.
OK, he was also a state high jump champion in the spring. And Haden Hicks was a standout receiver for the Mustangs last season before suffering a serious spine injury — fracturing three vertebrae —against Ellensburg that ended his season.
Hicks was a wide receiver last year. This year, the junior will be at quarterback.
“(Haden) brings athleticism and speed to the position,” said Prosser head coach Corey Ingvalson. “He allows us really get on the edge in some of our play-action game, and when things break down he can extend plays and make things happen with his feet.”
Hicks said he and the coaching staff came up with the idea.
“I really enjoy the position,” said Hicks, who said he played quarterback back in Grid Kids. “I am more of a roll-out guy and will run the ball. I enjoy running the ball.”
Hicks and Ingvalson say the standout athlete is 100 percent healthy.
“It was a tough situation,” said Ingvalson, “but I think his desire to be with his teammates and the opportunity to make life-long memories with guys he’s grown up with really impacted his decision to play.”
Hicks won’t be alone.
Guys like RB-DB Logan Candanoza, TE-LB Jake Coleman, WR-LB Case Reinmuth, WR Will Thompson and OL-DL Parker Visser are also expected to be leaders on this team.
But it won’t be easy.
Prosser plays in the CWAC South, and Toppenish returns a number of all-conference players this season, including Manuel Felan — a first-team All-CWAC South choice at wide receiver, defensive back and as a kick returner.
Selah is always a contender, and Grandview should be improved.
Othello could go 5-4 and still be one of the best teams in the state.
Roger Hoell’s Othello Huskies have done it again, with a monster non-league schedule — playing 1A powers Connell and Royal, as well a 2A giants West Valley of Spokane and Pullman.
That’s just the way Hoell likes it: to be the best, you have to play the best.
Now throw in Isaiah Perez, the running back and defensive end who was the CWAC North Defensive Player of the Year last season.
Perez is the best player in the entire CWAC, and one of the best in the entire state. He’s been committed to playing for BYU since last fall.
Other Huskies who should be leaders will include OL Elijah Roylance and DB Liddel Giles — both first-team All-CWAC North standouts last year.
There’s a new head coach at Ellensburg.
Last spring, Randy Affholter — who had been the head coach at Ellensburg for 22 years — decided to take the head coaching position at Kennewick High School.
That left a huge void in the Bulldogs program.
But Ellensburg found a great replacement in Jeff Zenisek, who came over from White River.
More importantly, Zenisek knows Ellensburg well. He was once the head coach for Central Washington University in Ellensburg for four seasons in the 1990s. He played at CWU.
And he comes into a Bulldogs program that is hardly bare.
Henry Rinehart was a first-team running back and linebacker last season for Ellensburg, and OL Tate Morris, RB Dion Hardeman and DL Wyatt Nelson were also first-team All-CWAC North.
Zenisek has been used to coming into high school programs trying to rebuild. This time, he enters a program that is pretty well established.
Grandview should be improved.
Darren Mezger enters his second season as head coach for the Greyhounds, so a full year of him there brings some familiarity to the players.
He likes what he sees.
“Rocco Parrish and James Barrientes have been great senior leaders all off season,” said Mezger. “We should have a solid defense that can bring pressure from many ways, along with a balanced offense that has a line that put in a lot of work in the weight room this offseason.”
Parrish will man the helm at quarterback.
The Greyhounds had three underclassmen last season that were named first-team All-CWAC South in K Diego Cuevas, DB Ferrell Medina, and OLB Dominik Sanchez.
Mezger sees his team at having a shot at the state playoffs.
More teams can make post-season play.
That’s because the top three in both the North and South divisions will make the big playoff date, which is set for Nov. 2 at Grandview in what will be a playoff tripleheader.
Last year, only the top two teams in each division advanced.
This year, the third-place teams in each division will take on the second-place squads for crossover playoff games against the Great Northern League’s top two teams.
Meanwhile, the division winners will meet for the CWAC title in Grandview at 7 p.m., Nov. 2.
Both teams will automatically advance to the state 2A playoffs.
In a perfect world, the CWAC could have four — yes, four — teams advance to the state tournament.
Top 5 games
- Sept. 6: Sunnyside at Prosser. Battle of the Yakima Valley involving one of the top Big Nine Conference teams and the Mustangs.
- Sept. 13: Othello at Royal. The Huskies head into perennial 1A power Royal’s stadium in an intriguing non-leaguer.
- Oct. 11: Ellensburg at Prosser. This is considered a non-leaguer. But don’t tell that to these CWAC powerhouses.
- Oct. 18: Ellensburg at Othello, and Prosser at Toppenish. These two games just might determine who the division champions will be – the first game for the North title, the second game for the South.