Mountaineers fight foes, apathy

rainier: Faced with small turnout, coach at tiny Class 1A school turns into a recruiter

mwochnick@theolympian.comAugust 23, 2012 

There were times when Jeff Johnson felt more like a recruiter than a high school football coach.

Following the spring sports in May, Johnson, who enters his fifth season as football coach at Rainier High School, wandered the halls of the school seeking out more football players for his small Class 1A team.

“A kid doesn’t walk by me in the hall without me asking, ‘Why don’t you play football?’ ” Johnson said.

According to the enrollment numbers from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, Rainier will remain a 1A school for the next two years, but just barely. The school, with 247 students in grades 10-12, is one of the smallest 1A schools in the state.

Just two years ago, Rainier had 50 players try out for football. Now, the Mountaineers will be lucky to field a junior-varsity team in addition to the varsity team.

At the end of the first week of football practice, Johnson had 25 kids on the field.

It was a disappointing number in many ways, Johnson said, after the Mountaineers missed the playoffs by a whisker last season. They lost a three-way tiebreaker, with Forks edging Rainier and Elma.

“We had this program going in such a great direction,” Johnson said.

Johnson is used to dealing with small numbers. When he was coach at 2B North Beach from 1996-99, he said he had an average of 33 players each season.

“We’ve got enough to play,” Johnson said. “We have two deep, but not two deep plus one.”

Home games in CAPS. All games at 7 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 31: at Naselle

Friday, Sept. 7: MOSSYROCK

Friday, Sept. 14: ROCHESTER *

Friday, Sept. 21: at Elma *

Friday, Sept. 28: TENINO *

Friday, Oct. 5: at Forks *

Friday, Oct. 12: HOQUIAM *

Friday, Oct. 19: at Montesano *


Coach: Jeff Johnson, fifth year

2011 record: 4-6 overall, tied for fourth in SWW 1A Evergreen.

Offense: Coordinator (set) – Johnson (multiple). Returning starters – 6. Top players – OL Gunnar Delio, 6-0, 200, jr.; WR Terry Dorris, 6-0, 185; sr.; RB Bailey Miller, 5-11, 185; jr.; OL Austin Carlson, 6-0, 210, jr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) – Todd Cordova (odd-front). Returning starters: 7. Top players – DL Ricky Sletten, 5-10, 170, sr.; DL Eric Staats, 5-9, 190, jr.; DB Tyler Wentworth, 6-0, 150, jr.; DL Gunner Delio, 6-0, 200, jr.; LB Bailey Miller, 5-11, 185, jr.

Outlook: The Mountaineers got a surprise in the offseason when all-league quarterback Mac Shaw transferred to Tenino. Despite small numbers, there’s a plethora of players with experience (13 returning starters). According to Johnson, linemen Gunnar Delio and Austin Carlson will make a difference in the trenches. 360-754-5473 @megwochnick * Southwest Washington 1A Evergreen game

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