RAINIER — The first indication of the Rainier Mountaineers’ turnaround is seen by the black T-shirts new coach Terry Shaw provided to his players when he was hired in March.
The T-shirts read as follows in orange lettering: “A new beginning of Rainier Football starts with me.”
It’s part of a strong vibe and new-found energy into a Mountaineers program that had its shares of struggles during a 1-8 season in 2012.
Recruiting players has been tough in recent years for one of the smallest Class 1A schools, but the 34-player turnout already tops last year’s mid-20s.
Shaw, a first-year head coach after previous assistant coaching stints at Timberline, Northwest Christian and Olympia, said players have taken on an ownership role and are hungry for success, which starts with their work ethic.
“They’re not afraid to work and not afraid to ask questions when they don’t know,” Shaw said.
Senior lineman Austin Carlson said the transformation already has been “phenomenal.”
“Our conditioning is up and our skill level has definitely improved,” Carlson said. “We definitely are farther along than we expected.”
A mix of youth and veterans make up the Mountaineers, led by sophomore McKoy Bichler, whom Shaw called “the perfect option quarterback” for the team’s no-huddle offense with senior Bailey Miller as a returning fullback and linebacker. Fellow seniors Gunnar Delio (lineman) and Nic Henry (linebacker) are the team’s returning all-league honorees from 2012.
“If we have the same record as last year,” Carlson said, “I’d be astonished.”Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick