The venue is special, but the game is the same.
It’s a season opener, and both defending Greater Spokane League football champion Gonzaga Prep and Ferris High will play theirs today at Qwest Field in Seattle.
It’s the Old Spice Emerald City Kickoff Classic, five prep football games in the Seahawks’ stadium. The quintet kicks off this morning at 9:30 with Wenatchee facing White River and concludes with a doubleheader pitting Mission Viejo, USA Today’s No. 1 ranked prep team last year, facing Issaquah at 5:30 p.m., followed by South Kitsap vs. Mercer Island at 8.
In between, Ferris will battle the state’s defending 4A champion, Evergreen (Vancouver), at noon, and G-Prep meets long-time non-league foe Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma) at 3 p.m.
“Coming over here, having to travel and play in the big stadium, it’s great for us,” Ferris coach Clarence Hough said prior to the Saxons’ Sunday practice at the University of Washington. “If you see yourself in a playoff situation, this is great because then it’s not new to them, they’ve been through it before.”
Evergreen went 14-0 last year in winning the Vancouver area’s first large-school football title. But the Plainsmen lost all but two starters, linebackers Justin Schuele and Andy Ross, who now make up the starting backfield (Schuele at tailback and Ross fullback). Evergreen’s JV and freshman team were undefeated and many varsity backups saw action in the Plainsmen’s many blowouts.
“This year is our time to shine,” senior lineman Mike May told the Vancouver Columbian. “We’re not rebuilding. We’re reloading with what we’ve got.”
The Saxons have a lot, with 13 starters returning, including lineman Cameron Elisara and quarterback Caleb Rath.
Prep, whose 12-2 season ended with a 31-30 semifinal loss to Evergreen, only returns four starters, but that includes Conor Hare, a second-team All-GSL defensive back, who will be one of up to seven Bullpups who will play on both sides of the ball.
“It’s the most we’ve ever used both ways,” Prep coach Dave Carson said. “It’s a concern to us, because we are a little short in spots.”
Bellarmine, the smallest 4A school in the state, is coming off a 5-5 season, which started with a 9-6 loss to the Pups in Spokane.
“It’s like playing our brothers,” Carson said. “I don’t care if they up or down, they are going to get after you. It’ll be tough.”
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