Terry Shaw corralled his team on the football field after practice earlier this week, and told them consistency builds championship programs.
If the first three weeks of Rainier High School’s season are any indication, the Mountaineers have gotten the message and are on their way.
In three games the Mountaineers have averaged just shy of 49 points per game, and scored 22 touchdowns. None of their opponents have scored a point, as in zero.
Opposing teams have barely gained any yards against Rainier. The Mountaineers have yet to allow an opponent more than 100 yards in a game.
During the football program’s 40-year history, Rainier has never opened the season 3-0 with three consecutive shutouts. The only other time Rainier has recorded three shutouts in a season at all was 1987.
“We’re definitely excited about it,” junior quarterback Zach Lofgren said. “But we know we’ve got next week (to prepare for). Saturday morning — that’s about the only time we bring it up.”
Rainier has had three very enjoyable Saturday mornings.
In the season opener, Mountaineers shut out former league rival North Beach, 45-0. The following week, they blanked Raymond, 27-0.
And last week, on the road at Chief Leschi, the Mountaineers set a flurry of school records in a 74-0 win, including most touchdowns in a game (11) and margin of victory (74 points) — set in 1989 against Napavine.
As impressive as those numbers were, consider this: Because of injuries, Rainier had only 15 players active against Cheif Leschi, some of who were freshmen.
“That’s what I was most proud of that game,” Shaw said. “It didn’t look like we were missing anyone. We were just playing Rainier football.”
The past several years, the Mountaineers have been on the cusp of making postseason runs, though the program hasn’t reached the state playoffs since it was the Class 2B runner-up for two consecutive years in 1990 and 1991.
Last year, injuries squandered Rainier’s best start since 1990 (5-0 to begin the season), and the Mountaineers fizzled out in the district playoffs.
“We know it can change in an instant, so we’ve got to keep a mentality of going strong,” said senior running back Ian Russell, who was an Olympian All-Area selection at linebacker as a junior.
Russell said the program’s fast pace during practices, and a commitment to conditioning, has helped players become more durable in games, considering most of the roster starts both ways.
“It’s definitely hard on us, but we all look at each other for support, and we all back each other up,” Lofgren said.
Though Lofgren (8 of 16 passing, 151 yards; 30 carries, 354 yards, 11 total TDs) and Russell (18 carries, 270 yards, 4 TDs in two games) have but up the big numbers, both say the collective effort of the team is the reason for the impressive start.
“It doesn’t matter who gets the ball, it doesn’t matter who’s blocking, we all trust each other,” Russell said.
Trusting each other and trusting how the coaches have shaped the program is how Shaw explains three straight shutouts.
“They’re playing the system,” he said. “They’re very familiar with it, and they’re just playing fast. There’s not thinking at the line of scrimmage. We’ve got the right kids, too.”
Russell said the program’s mentality to play at full speed for an entire game has helped keep opposing offenses off the scoreboard, even late in the game.
“If it’s the fourth quarter, and we’re winning by 50 (points), we’re still not giving up,” he said. “We’re still going as hard and as fast as we can.”
The first time an opposing team does score, Russell said he expects everyone to get back to work on the next drive.
Even with the shutout streak, Russell said he approaches every game like the Mountaineers are playing the best team in the state, and the same will be true Friday night when Rainier hosts Morton-White Pass.
“It’s amazing, it’s awesome,” he said of the streak. “But, it doesn’t mean anything if we go out and lose this game, and the game after. We’ve just got to keep pushing forward until we’re the best that we can be.”