They don’t really count wins and losses within the Ballard High School football program these days — although the unbeaten Beavers are enjoying a season worth bragging about.
Coach Ross Humphries doesn’t rate success by records — not even the 8-0 mark this team sports heading into Friday’s Metro League crossover game against Ingraham (6-2), set for 5 p.m. at Seattle Memorial Stadium.
At Ballard, it’s about counting on one another rather than statistics. The program’s motto is YOU CAN COUNT ON ME — a belief system Humphries instilled when he took over in 2016.
“The first thing they focused on was building relationships with players and making sure we are a unit and we’re all together before we talked about winning and other stuff like that,” said Jarman Hauser, who was a struggling student when he arrived as a freshman that fall.
Humphries, a 2003 Ballard graduate who played under coach Doug Trainor, stresses what he calls “the 4 C’s” — commitment, cooperation, conduct and compete — and Hauser bought in. He started focusing on his grades — raising them from C’s and D’s to A’s and B’s — and staying out of trouble.
“The football program gave me something to work towards,” he said. “If I didn’t play football, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Now a senior, Hauser is a two-way starter who is approaching 1,000 yards rushing and has scored a team-high 10 touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Ryan Blokker began showing up at Ballard practices the spring of his eighth-grade year and earned the starting position by the end of the second game that fall and quickly felt at home.
“The program as a whole is just one big community,” said Blokker, who has passed for 1,597 yards with 19 TDs. “I feel I can count on them (teammates). They want what’s best for me, and I want what’s best for them. It’s all about being there for each other at the end of the day.”
The Beavers don’t want this season to end any time soon but take nothing for granted. They expect a tough game in the rematch with Ingraham, which was 6-0 before a 29-13 loss to Ballard less than two weeks ago.
This one is a loser-out game, with only the survivor advancing to the preliminary round of the Class 3A state playoffs. The Beavers want to get there, and beyond — especially after being eliminated in the preliminary round in each of the past two seasons to finish 6-4.
“We’ve come a long way since then,” Blokker said.
His freshman season ended with a 70-7 loss to Ferndale.
“That motivated everyone to give everything you’ve got and leave no regrets,” Blokker said.
Ballard lost 49-6 to Mountain View of Vancouver in last year’s preliminary round and has only advanced to the round of 16 twice in school history, most recently in 2015 before coach Joey Thomas resigned to coach at Garfield, finishing 8-3. The Beavers reached the Class 4A state championship in 2003, losing 21-14 to Pasco.
There were lean years between then a now, including a string of one-win seasons in 2008-10 as part of KingCo 4A. Ballard returned to the Metro League in the fall of 2014.
Humphries got his first taste of coaching his senior year at Ballard as Trainor asked him to help out at his freshman camp.
“I was hooked,” Humphries said.
He started a four-year stint as a Ballard assistant coach that fall and had stops at Mount Rainier, West Seattle, Blanchet and Seattle Prep before getting the head position at Ballard.
During the interview process, Humphries — who turns 34 on Friday — was asked what his goals for the program were. He told the committee he wanted to see 100 players in the program by year four.
“They actually chuckled at me when I said that, because that was like twice as much as Ballard normally gets,” he said. “We fell short of that goal, but we do have 91 players in our program this year.”
There have been dramatic increases in the overall team GPA as well as participation in offseason conditioning and community service — and, of course, in the W-L column after finishing just 3-7 in 2016.
Humphries believes the best is yet to come, and his players believe you can count on it.