There’s a sense of déjà vu hovering around the Rainier High School football field — specifically for Alec Miller.
A jack-of-all-trades, Miller, a 5-foot-8, 190-pound senior, splits time between running back, linebacker and kicker. And he’s a leader on a Mountaineers team that is on pace to end a 23-season state playoff drought.
“He’s a kid everybody will rally around,” Rainier coach Terry Shaw said.
Well, Miller does have genetic history to back him up.
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His father, Steve, played on the first Rainier team to make the state playoffs, in 1990, as a running back.
The Mountaineers reached the 2B state championship game, but lost to Reardan, 13-3, at the Kingdome.
“Boy, that was a long time ago,” Steve joked.
Rainier duplicated the feat in 1991 — losing to DeSales in the final, 46-16 — but hasn’t seen a glimpse of the tournament since.
“He wants the same thing to happen for us,” Alec Miller said of his father. “He wants another team to beat that. Nobody’s ever won a state championship, and he wants that really bad.”
The déjà vu part?
The Mountaineers finished 6-4 in Steve’s junior season before their 10-2 run to state when he was a senior.
In 2014, Alec’s junior year, Rainier was 6-4 — its first winning season since 2008. This season, the Mountaineers are 3-2 (1-2 2B Pacific), and have only lost to state-ranked teams: No. 3 North Beach (54-22) and No. 8 Raymond (27-13).
“We know how important this year is and the potential we have,” Alec Miller said. “We have to apply that and show it.”
Miller has applied it in all three phases this season. He’s rushed for 133 yards on 12 carries with one touchdown. He’s racked up 13 1/2 tackles — two for losses — and recovered a fumble.
He’s also 7 of 8 on PAT attempts — he broke the school record last season with 28, and was an all-league selection at kicker.
“You’ve got to be prepared to play both ways,” Steve Miller said. “That’s where the conditioning comes in, and the mental toughness.”
Some of the versatility reflects Steve’s high school career. He played as a running back, defensive back and on special teams — though, he was closer to 5-7, 150.
Steve and Alec have a coach-player relationship in addition to the father-son relationship. He coached Alec in TCYFL from second grade to sixth grade, and coaches pole vault and javelin at Rainier — Alec took sixth in javelin at the 2B state meet last spring.
And Steve has taken every opportunity to teach.
“I remember a time where I fumbled a ball in a game, and the next practice he taped a football to my arm and told me to hold onto the ball,” Alec said.
Alec, a fourth-grader at the time, wasn’t too happy with the medical tape wrapped around his arm for the duration of the practice.
“He didn’t like it so much, but it got the point across that ball control is important and you have to hang on to it,” Steve said.
Apparently, it stuck.
“I don’t think he’s dropped the ball once this year,” Shaw said.
These days, Steve is happy to watch Alec play from the stands.
“The coaches we had then are a lot like the coaches they have now,” Steve said. “They push kids to find limits. You never know limits until you’re pushed to that point — whether you can succeed and go beyond it.”
Alec says he thinks Rainier can with Shaw’s leadership — improving after a 3-7 season in 2013.
“It’s definitely possible from everything we’ve built,” Alec said. “It’s only been a couple of years, but we came so far.”
And Steve, remembering his own trip to the state playoffs, hopes the Mountaineers can go the distance.
Steve still has his jersey — No. 22, Alec is No. 33 — and a photo with some teammates, which is displayed at home.
“I think every parent wants their kid to feel that pride and sense of worth and accomplishment,” he said. “You start everything out young in life and always refer back to those good times, so it’d bring back a lot of memories.”
Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473