With so many great players and so many terrific teams in Washington, any given weekend provides multiple opportunities to watch highly competitive high-school football.
To get you ready for the season we’ve got the top 10 games, players and teams across Washington this season.
We’ll start with the games. We’ve attempted below to present a weekly tour that combines the best of two worlds — games that feature teams expected to compete deep into the postseason in their classifications plus the chance to watch some of the state’s best individual players.
Friday, Sept. 3 – O’Dea at Union, 7 p.m.
Why we going? A matchup between schools that have participated in state title games the past two years available. The Titans beat Lake Stevens for the Class 4A championship in 2018. The Irish lost to Eastside Catholic in the Class 3A game in 2018 and 2019 (after they won in 2017). Both are contenders again in 2021. Oh, and Notre Dame bound receiver Tobias Merriweather will be catching passes for Union.
Friday, Sept. 10 – Kentwood at Bellevue, 7 p.m.
Why we going? Another high-profile 4A vs. 3A nonleague game. The Conquerors are expected to compete for the North Puget Sound League title. The perennially powerful Wolverines again are the favorites in the KingCo.
Friday, Sept. 17 – Sumner at Puyallup, 7 p.m., Carl Sparks Stadium
Why we going? The Spartans and Arizona State bound safety Tristan Dunn start the Vikings’ decisive two-week stretch. Sumner and Puyallup are considered the top two challengers to a strong, balanced Graham-Kapowsin squad in the South Puget Sound League’s 4A race. The Vikings play the Eagles on the road one week later.
Friday, Sept. 24 – Archbishop Murphy at Lake Stevens, 7 p.m., Lake Stevens Stadium
Why we going? The intrigue of a matchup you won’t often see in high-school football, a Class 2A team visiting a Class 4A. But it wasn’t so long ago that other 2A teams chose to take forfeit losses rather than even step on the field with the Wildcats, who have an up-and-coming core of youngsters in the junior class.
Saturday, Oct. 2 – Tahoma at Federal Way, 1 p.m., Federal Way Memorial Stadium
Why we going? It’s the back end of a big, challenging two-week road stretch for the Bears if they want to contend in the NPSL, since Tahoma plays Kennedy Catholic in Burien the Saturday before this one. The Eagles also have playoff aspirations, which could turn this one into a battle to be a front-runner.
Friday, Oct. 8 – Eastside Catholic at O’Dea, 7 p.m.
Why we going? The past five years, when these teams have met, they’ve been ranked 1-2 in the state (except for last year when there were no rankings) or in the state championship game.
Friday, Oct. 15 – Graham-Kapowsin at Sumner, 7 p.m., Sunset Chev Stadium
Why we going? Maybe the most complete roster in the state in the Eagles, with big lineman and UW commit Vega Ioane, against Arizona State commit Tristan Dunn (safety) and the Spartans. While Puyallup might have something to say, this one could determine the SPSL 4A champion.
Thursday, Oct. 21 – Seattle Prep at Rainier Beach, 7 p.m., SEAC
Why we going? A Thursday night bonus game. Outside of O’Dea, these two likely will be the ones with something to say about the Metro League outcome. Prep got huge wins last spring against the Irish and Eastside Catholic to build momentum coming into the fall. Oh, and we get to see top 2022 Washington recruit Josh Conerly for the Vikings, too.
Friday, Oct. 22 – Kennedy Catholic at Kentwood, 7 p.m., French Field
Why we going? Two NPSL favorites meet in the penultimate weekend of the season, with the league title potentially at stake. The Conquerors big front line led by Joel Smith and junior guards Zekiel Seumalo and Mikaio Edwards face off against the Lancers’ new-look air raid, now Mason Hayes replacing record-setter Sam Huard at quarterback.
Friday, Oct. 29 – Lake Stevens at Glacier Peak, 7 p.m., Snohomish Stadium
Why we going? For the second week in a row, two probable playoff teams. A league title likely on the line. Duh.
Top 10 teams
1. Graham-Kapowsin (4A, 6-0 last spring)
Big picture: There’s no doubt this team has a chance to be the best in the 17-year tenure of head coach Eric Kurle (144-41 at G-K). The Eagles, who reached the 4A state quarterfinals in 2019, are loaded on offense with 10 starters back, including UW commit Vega Ioane (6-5, 315) anchoring both lines
2. O’Dea (3A, 5-2)
Big picture: With dynamic running back Jason Brown, the Irish will have a chance to win every game this fall. The sophomore gets to run behind a stout offensive line, led by Isendre Ahfua (6-5, 330) and Mark Nabou (6-4, 330).
3. Tumwater (2A, 6-0)
Big picture: The T-birds won the Class 2A state crown in 2019 and appear well-positioned to make a strong bid for the school’s seventh state championship. Tumwater can lean on a pair of tight ends/defensive ends in Ryan Otton (6-6, 240, UW) and Austin Terry (6-5, 235, Boise State).
4. Lake Stevens (4A, 5-0)
Big picture: The early part of the season was derailed by positive COVID tests, but with multiple matchup problems on offense, the Vikings can make opposing defenses’ heads spin. This team is expected to build on its 46-game win streak against WesCo4A foes.
5. Gonzaga Prep (4A, 5-0)
Big picture: The Bullpups will pack a punch on defense, led by pass rusher Kaz Melzer (6-5, 240) and a host of experienced defensive linemen. On offense, G-Prep’s success begins with QB Ryan McKenna and the triple option.
6. Royal (1A, 5-0)
Big picture: The nine-time state champions are poised for another title run, led by captain Avery Ellis, a bruising 6-foot-2, 230-pounder running back. The Knights are led by a stout defense.
7, Eatonville (1A, 5-1)
Big picture: The high-scoring, high-powered Cruisers retain 15 starters and the confidence to make a state run. OT Kyle Cox, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound junior, will be a key cog for an offense that averaged almost 44 points per game in the spring.
8. Odessa (1B, 5-0 last spring)
Big picture: The reigning two-time Class 1B state champions are the kings of eight-man football. Head coach Jeff Nelson is 62-6 heading into his seventh season leading the Tigers, who have won 32 consecutive games.
9. Lakewood (2A, 5-0)
Big picture: The Cougars are oozing with confidence and are a legitimate state-title contender. QB Justice Taylor can hurt teams on the ground and through the air, and he has the protection of one of the stoutest lines, led by WSU commit Jakobus Seth (OT, 6-3, 273).
10. Seattle Prep (3A, 5-2)
Big picture: One season (spring 2021) after toppling Class 3A state powers O’Dea and Eastside Catholic, Prep is built to keep climbing. The Panthers are led by TE Jack Velling (Oregon State commit), RB Eli Black and QB Braeden Smith.
Top 10 players
1. Josh Conerly, OT, 6-5, 275, Rainier Beach, Sr.
Who is he? Ranked as the top recruit in the state by 247Sports.com, he has drawn interest from perennial powers all over the country in Alabama, Michigan and Oklahoma, as well as the hometown Huskies.
2. Tobias Merriweather, WR, 6-4, 185, Union, Sr. (ND)
Who is he? Committed to the Irish. Merriweather told Rivals.com that the community, culture and history offered by Notre Dame were the reasons for his choice.
3. David Iuli, OL, 6-4, 315, Puyallup, Sr. (UO)
Who is he? Arrived in Puyallup with his family from American Samoa when he was 10 years old and has built himself into a force on the Vikings front line. Has committed to play for Oregon next fall.
4. Dishawn Misa, LB, 6-3, 220, Eastside Catholic, Sr.
Who is he? Moves well from sideline to sideline, using his instincts to determine what is coming at him. Gets off blocks well to make big tackles. Is being pursued by numerous Pac-12 schools, as well as Boise State.
5. Jayden Wayne, DL, 6-5, 245, Lincoln (Tacoma), Jr.
Who is he? Athleticism for days. Physically looks the part with strength and quickness. Still developing moves and technique, but that raw athleticism allows him to beat blockers and rapidly get into opposing backfields.
6. Jasiah Wagoner, CB/RB/WR, 5-11, 160, Spanaway Lake, Jr.
Who is he? Not listed as one of his positions, but got some run at quarterback for the defending Pierce County League champs. Speed, toughness and versatility make this explosive offensive threat one to watch as Spanaway Lake goes for back-to-back league titles.
7. Malik Agbo, OT, 6-6, 320, Todd Beamer, Sr.
Who is he? Big personality to go with great size on both sides of the ball for Beamer. Recruiting interest coming from Miami, Oklahoma, LSU, Florida and the Pac-12 for the man working to develop his technique.
8. Tristan Dunn, WR, 6-3, 190, Sumner, Sr.
Who is he? Talented Arizona State commit turned to another Sumner standout, Connor Wedington, to improve his training regimen after meeting the Seahawks hopeful last winter.
9. Jason Brown, RB, 5-10, 180, O’Dea, So.
Who is he? May have only four games under his belt as a freshman, during the shortened season last spring, but will be the featured weapon for Monte Kohler’s Class 3A favorites this fall. UW, USC, Texas, Oregon and Florida State are some of the nine offers he’s already received as an athlete.
10. Gabarri Johnson, QB, 6-0, 200, Lincoln (Tacoma), Jr.
Who is he? Dual threat for the Abes showed flashes of brilliance as a sophomore, including a game-winning drive engineered against PCL-rival Lakes that included a precision touchdown pass into the corner.
Correction: This story’s been updated to reflect that Josh Conerly has not committed to UW, as was originally reported.