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3 Washington high school football teams to buy rising stock in for rest of 2023

None of them were preseason league favorites, but this undefeated trio is knocking on that door - with greater goals in mind

Sometimes, out-of-season predictions miss the mark.

At the midway point of the season, that seems to be the case with these three programs - Arlington, Seton Catholic and Northwest Christin School of Colbert.

All three of them are 5-0 heading into key games down the stretch of the regular season. All of them appear poised to make noise in the playoffs.

Here is a look at those three teams SBLive WA is buying as contenders for the rest of the season:



Arlington Eagles football 2023

Preseason prediction: Third in 3A Wesco North.

On track for: Playing Monroe for league title.

Skinny: When you live in a 3A Wesco world with perennial powerhouse Ferndale (2005 state champion), and emerging Stanwood (WIAA quarterfinal team in 2022), sometimes it's tough to make a mark. Well, the Eagles did just that - emphatically - over the past two weeks by handling both programs (46-14 win over Ferndale; 42-7 win over Stanwood). "Against Peninsula (in 2022 district playoffs), we started 13 sophomores," said Arlington's Greg Dailer, who has been the coach since 2008. "So, with the seniors we had back, and that sophomore (now junior) class ... we knew this was going to be a good year." The face of the program has become junior quarterback Leyton Martin, who missed much of last season with a hand injury. "He is an unbelievable playmaker," Dailer said. "He is best when it is unscripted. ... He scrambles around to make big pass plays, And he has a phenomenal arm." Although the receiving corps is deep and talented, it recently lost its most talented contributor in Jacoby Falor (broken fibula) for the season. "We won't be able to replace that loss, but we need to spread it around," Dailer said. What has been the most pleasant surprise is the team's run defense, paced by defensive end Jeremy Fleming and linebackers Nolan Welch-Downing and Kobi Spady. "We set goals, and one of them was to win the Wesco North title," Dailer said. "Another one was to run the table (in league)."

What an opposing league coach says: "Their offense is scary. The quarterback is a great athlete ... and he is like Russell Wilson. When it breaks down, he can turn any play into a touchdown."

Long-term season forecast: WIAA quarterfinal team.



Seton Catholic football 2023

Preseason prediction: Second in 1A Trico.

On track for: Playing La Center for league title.

Skinny: Only a handful of coaches adhere to that calling to stay at one school - and Dan Chase is that man at Seton Catholic. He helped found the program in 2010. And after serving as the school's vice principal, he stepped down so he could take the reins of this program for a third time (he is now a math teacher). "I love Seton Catholic. All the men and women who go here are like my family," Chase said. And in this latest installment - one that has the Cougars as the current No. 1 team in the WIAA's RPI rankings after early wins over Rochester (2A), Goldendale (2B) and Life Christian Academy - Chase noted he just wants to make sure this team stays on its "great trajectory." Chase has meshed a young, talented group of players with an experienced staff - one that has a bevy of former head coaches. Ex-Eastside Catholic coach and WSU quarterbacking great Jason Gesser is the offensive coordinator. Ex-Woodland coach Mark Greenleaf is the defensive coordinator. And assistant Nick Mancillas was the former King's Way Christian coach. "We are blessed with a lot of experience," Chase said. This is a wide-open, quick-strike offense, led by quarterback Kolten Gesser, who got the starting job last fall as a ninth grader. The cast of skill-position playmakers is deep. And the offensive line, with no returning starters, is coming along. And the Cougars start just one senior - Ryan Stuck at slot receiver. "They consider themselves a brotherhood and part of a legacy - while leaving a legacy," Chase said.

What an opposing league coach says: "Seton (Catholic) is for real ... They have really good junior and sophomore classes who played together in the CCYF (Clark County Youth Football League). That is a good group coming through."

Long-term season forecast: Reach WIAA playoffs for first time in school history.



Northwest Christian of Colbert football 2023

Preseason prediction: Fourth in 2B Northeast.

On track for: Winning league title.

Skinny: While all the preseason talk focused on Lind-Ritzville/Sprague/Washtucna, the Crusaders were quietly putting together their best team to-date in their 10-year history (anniversary is next week). And last week, they solidified their position in capturing the 2B Northeast title with a 30-0 win on the Broncos' home field to cap a 5-0 run against some pretty good teams (Chewelah, Reardan, River View, Asotin). "We are very senior- and junior-heavy," Crusaders coach Marshall Hart said. "And they are just tough." Yes, he has 22 upperclassmen - many of whom are starters. And the helm of it all is quarterback Titus Spuler, a senior whose father, Aaron, is the school's boys basketball coach. The teenager runs the team's power Air Raid to perfection. "I was in the Arena League (as an assistant) for a long time, and he is smarter than a lot of quarterbacks at that level," Hart said. What makes Northwest Christian dangerous is its balance - in all three phases. "I think this is the best team we’ve ever had," Hart said. "We don’t have a, 'Dude,' but a bunch of different dudes who can make plays."

What an opposing league coach says: "Buy stock. I don't know if they are Napavine or Okanogan good, or state-championship material. But they are a quarterfinal, possible-semifinal team from our league. ... He has (12) seniors and each of them is a player. Their front line is so disciplined."

Long-term season forecast: WIAA semifinal team.


(Featured photo by Farrah Downing/Arlington Gridiron Club)