The Rainier High School football team is breaking down its grueling schedule — which includes three programs that advanced to the Class 2B state playoffs last season — week by week.
Week 1: The Mountaineers, with only 20 players in tow, traveled to the coast to meet a former Class 2B Pacific League rival, North Beach. Less than a year removed from being walloped by the Hyaks, Rainier shut out them out, 31-0.
Week 2: Another former rival on the road. Another rout. Rainier won this won against Raymond, 49-21, again avenging last year’s loss.
Week 3: In its home opener, Rainier racked up 63 points — the second most in a single game in school history, the record is 72 set against Napavine in 1989 — and never allowed Chief Leschi to find the end zone.
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Week 4: In perhaps the biggest regular-season test so far, Rainier quarterback Zach Lofgren and running back Devan Stancil each recorded four touchdowns. The Mountaineers allowed only two scores by Morton-White Pass — which has advanced to the 2B state playoffs in five of the last six years — in a 44-14 win.
“I’ve just noticed the heart,” Lofgren said. “The atmosphere just feels way better. We’re more of a team this year, more together.”
For the first time since 2006, Rainier, which has outscored opponents 187-35 this season, is 4-0. And for the first time in coach Terry Shaw’s memory, the eighth-ranked Mountaineers cracked the Associated Press top 10.
In a light turnout year, after losing 13 seniors to graduation, is this where the Mountaineers expected to be four weeks in?
“To be honest, not at all,” Stancil said. “A lot of people doubted us, and I think a lot of people didn’t think we’d go anywhere until camp. We bonded, and focused on going week-by-week and seeing what we could do.”
What Rainier has done so far is put together a series of blistering scoring drives, on pace to shatter the program’s all-time record for points in a season — 380 in 1991, when the Mountaineers last appeared in a state title game — since it started playing 11-man football in 1977.
Lofgren and Stancil, who is Rainier’s backup quarterback in its triple-option offense, have combined for most of those points, scoring 12 collective touchdowns.
“We’ve gotten better each week and really proved what we can do this year,” Lofgren said.
Lofgren, a sophomore, who has played in Rainier’s offense since middle school, said he had confidence in filling the role after starting three games as a freshman.
His coaches say he’s slippery — he has 455 rushing yards and six touchdowns to complement his 300 passing yards for three touchdowns — and has downfield vision uncommon for a high school quarterback.
“We’ll be watching from the sidelines like, ‘Why are you cutting in right now? … Oh. Touchdown. That’s why you cut in,’ ” Shaw said. “He can see stuff in front of him that most kids don’t.”
Stancil, by contrast, learned Rainier’s offense last year. He and twin brother, Dillon, transferred from Yelm after their sophomore season, and spent most of their junior season adjusting.
“It was completely different than Yelm’s, so it took a lot longer to get a hold of,” Devan Stancil said. “It’s all coming to me now, so it’s a lot easier.”
Now, Stancil has several responsibilities, including quarterbacking the Mountaineers for two series every game — regardless of what the score is. Through four games, he has racked up 407 rushing yards, and has a kickoff return for a touchdown.
“He’s throwing the ball, he’s catching the ball, he’s running the ball,” Shaw said. “It’s great to have a kid who knows the offense well enough to be proficient in all of those things.”
Stancil said he and Lofgren have similar attributes — both are 5-foot-11 and quick — which tends to befuddle opposing defenses.
“I think it makes them look at more players than just one,” Lofgren said. “Like Ian (Russell)? He’s an absolute animal (at running back). As soon as we get them focused on Devan and Ian and me at the same time, it confuses them.”
Rainier’s defense is anything but confused. This season, the Mountaineers have allowed five touchdowns — the defense has allowed four, while contributing 11 points on a touchdown and two safeties.
“We’ve simplified the coverage this year,” Shaw said. “… We’ve just done a better job of coaching the defense, and the kids have taken pride in that.”
“Everyone’s just doing their job, and we’re flying to the ball,” said Lofgren, also a free safety.
Stancil said shutting out North Beach in Week 1 boosted confidence. That feeling escalated in the three weeks that followed.
“Definitely to go in last week and beat Morton-White Pass means a lot to us,” Stancil said. “It was a big test for us. It was a good feeling.”
From here, the tests only get bigger. No. 9 Onalaska visits Friday, and No. 7 Adna follows. Then Life Christian, a 2B state playoff team last year, comes to town.
The 2B Pacific/Central Mountain Division schedule is capped with a trip to top-ranked Napavine — last year’s 2B runner-up and the undisputed state favorite since the season began.
“Our whole goal has been, from the beginning of June, let’s get better every day,” Shaw said. “Let’s make sure we can chart us getting better in something every day. When we saw them start to buy into that, that’s when we knew we had potential.”
Rainier has enjoyed each win, fleetingly, but knows the bulk of the schedule looms.
“It’s coming up,” Stancil said.