Aug. 29, 2019 at 6:00 am Updated Aug. 29, 2019 at 4:27 pm
Eastside Catholic celebrates its win over O’Dea for the Class 3A state football title in the Gridiron Classic at the Tacoma Dome last year. (Rebekah Welch / The Seattle Times)
Seattle Times staff reporter
It is a question that can never be answered definitively, but we are going to ask it anyway.
Could the 2019 Eastside Catholic football team be the best in state history?
With at least 10 players with Division I scholarship offers, including some of the top players in the country, the Crusaders are at least in the conversation. And if they can go undefeated this season, against a schedule that includes three out-of-state teams, they can make a strong case for themselves.
Eastside Catholic coach Dominic Daste doesn’t even want to go there. At least not now.
But we can.
The Crusaders, who rolled to last year’s Class 3A state title after losing their season opener to national power Oaks Christian (Westlake, Calif.), are loaded.
Four seniors are ranked in the top 304 of 247Sports composite rankings: receiver Gee Scott Jr. (No. 63), who has committed to Ohio State, running back Sam Adams II, (No. 162), who has committed to Washington, and cornerback Ayden Hector (No. 259) and tight end D.J. Rogers (No. 304), who have not committed.
Add in junior defensive lineman J.T. Tuimoloau, ranked No. 8 (and No. 1 in 247Sports’ own rankings) in the 2021 class, and sophomore linebacker Dishawn Misa, ranked No. 55 in 2022, and you get the picture.
“This Eastside Catholic team is really loaded as far as guys who are going to sign Division I (scholarships),” said Dave Miller, who in his 33 years as the coach at Lakes has had some of the better teams in state history. “I think the most we’ve ever had is three, and they have 10-11-12 guys already. It is probably the most (in state history).”
Said Ron Siegel, who has followed high-school football in the state since the 1950s: “At least on paper, Eastside Catholic is the most talented team that I have ever seen in this state.”
But even if the Crusaders, who show up at No. 15 in USA Today’s national preseason rankings, are the most talented, will they be the best?
“We’ve just got to stay humble, and one of the things I am trying to convey to our kids is that this 2019 team hasn’t done anything yet,” Daste said.
The competition for best ever is long and tough, starting with the 1920 Everett High School team that was named conational champions by the National Sports News Service, and ending with last year’s undefeated Union (Vancouver) team that rolled to the Class 4A state title.
Ask 10 experts to name the best high-school football teams in state history, and you will almost certainly get 10 different answers, but it’s seemingly unanimous that two Bellevue teams belong in the discussion: the 2004 team that went 14-0 and ended De La Salle of California’s 151-game winning streak; and the 2012 team that was named Sports Illustrated’s national champion and was in the midst of a state-record 67-game winning streak (snapped by Eastside Catholic).
Pat Jones, an assistant coach at Bellevue for 25 years through 2016, said he gives the nod to the 2012 team.
“The 2004 team peaked really early,” he said. “By the end of that year, we were really injured and kind of hanging on, whereas the 2012 team was peaking at the end.”
How does a discussion of the best football teams in state history not include the 2004 Bellevue team that snapped De La Salle’s national-record streak? (Rod Mar / The Seattle Times)
The Wolverines finished 14-0 in 2012 and outscored opponents 635-72. They opened that season by beating Texas power Trinity of Euless 31-24 and outscored four foes 140-13 in the state playoffs.
Future NFL players Myles Jack and Budda Baker led a group that also included a pair of future Huskies, Sean Constantine and Shane Bowman, a future professional baseball player, Jack Meggs, at quarterback and Dakota Jones, Pat’s son who became a starting defensive back for Army.
“I think until another team steps up and is the national champion, I am going to stick with the 2012 team being the best this state has ever seen, and not just because I coached there,” Jones said. “It was just an incredible collection of great student-athletes.”
Miller has had several talented teams at Lakes that many say have been among the best. He thought his best team was in 2011, when it was led by Zac Banner, who went to USC, and Cedric Dozier, who went on to California.
But in a showdown of nationally ranked and undefeated teams in the 2011 Class 3A state quarterfinals, Bellevue prevailed 35-15.
“I remember coming out two hours before the game, and it was packed,” Miller said. “Two of the best teams I have seen.”
But there are several other contenders. Jerry Parrish, who coached at North Kitsap in Poulsbo for more than three decades and is a historian of state football, said the Everett High teams in the late 1940s and early 1950s are high on his list, as are the Snohomish teams in the late 1960s.
Puyallup lost twice in 1987 but went on to win the Class 4A state title with Billy Joe Hobert, who went on to star at the University of Washington, at quarterback. That Viking team left strong memories.
“I scouted them, and the ball never touched the ground,” Jones said. “I told our coach, Coach Dwaine Hatch, that I just saw one of the greatest passing attacks I have ever seen in high-school football. The ball literally never touched the ground. It was like an aerial circus.”
The list of contenders for the state’s best stretches long.
Legendary Tumwater coach Sid Otton, who retired after the 2016 season, had some great teams, as has longtime O’Dea coach Monte Kohler, including 13-0 state title teams in 1994 and 1995. Skyline of Sammamish also had some outstanding seasons the past two decades, including several undefeated teams.
Going back further, the 1962 Lincoln of Tacoma team deserves mention, as does the undefeated Bishop Blanchet team of 1974. Mount Tahoma (Tacoma) dominated in 1979-80 (going 24-0), Juanita seemed invincible in 1984 and 1985, and the 1992 undefeated Newport team beat what Jones called was one of great Bellevue teams ever en route to a state title.
Of course, there any many more teams worth considering. But Eastside Catholic is prepped to push itself to the top of the conversation.
“Don’t get me wrong, we are very talented and we have some kids who are special,” Daste said. “But we have some kids who haven’t played before, who haven’t been in big positions and haven’t done what previous teams have done. But if we do things correctly, this team absolutely has a chance to be one of the most successful teams at Eastside Catholic.”
If not the state.
Here is a look at the state Class 4A and 3A football teams that have finished unbeaten since the start of the state football tournament in 1973.
2018 Union 14-0
2016 Camas 14-0
2015 Gonzaga Prep 13-0
2014 Bothell 14-0
2012 Skyline 12-0
2010 Ferris 14-0
2008 Skyline 14-0
2006 Skyline 14-0
2005 Skyline 14-0
2004 Evergreen (Vancouver) 14-0
2000 Pasco 14-0
1994 South Kitsap 13-0
1992 Newport (Bellevue) 12-0
1986 Gonzaga Prep 12-0
1985 Juanita 13-0
1984 Juanita 13-0
1980 Mount Tahoma 12-0
1979 Mount Tahoma 12-0
1978 Snohomish 13-0
1976 Snohomish 13-0
1975 Foss 12-0
1974 Bishop Blanchet 12-0
2015 Eastside Catholic 13-0
2013 Bellevue 14-0
2012 Bellevue 14-0
2011 Bellevue 14-0
2008 Bellevue 14-0
2007 Skyline 13-0
2006 Bellevue 14-0
2005 Ferndale 14-0
2004 Bellevue 13-0
2001 Bellevue 13-0
2000 Skyline 13-0
1997 Lakes 13-0
1995 O’Dea 13-0
1994 O’Dea 13-0
1993 Prosser 13-0
1992 Prosser 13-0
1990 Tumwater 13-0
1989 Tumwater 13-0
1988 Liberty (Issaquah) 13-0
1981 East Valley (Spokane) 13-0
1980 Centralia 12-0
1978 Peninsula 13-0
1976 West Valley (Spokane) 12-0
1975 Sumner 12-0
1973 Ellensburg 12-0
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