TENINO - Two years ago, Tenino football coach Kevin Ridout always had to remind several of his players to wear their game jersey to school on Fridays.
Being associated with a team that won just one game in two seasons wasn't exactly chic.
But with Tenino off to a 3-1 start this season and just 20 seconds away from being undefeated, Ridout no longer has to coax his players into following his game-day tradition of wearing their jerseys to school.
Everyone wants to be associated with a winner.
"Before, you found guys who wouldn't put their jersey on," Ridout said. "And I'd have to get on them. Kids right now are proud to be a member of this football team."
Tenino has won 10 of its past 15 games.
"You have to credit the seniors," said Ridout, who became Tenino's head coach in 2001. "They've done everything. They've built this team. They've worked hard in the weight room, in the classroom and on the field."
Beaver fever is growing. Early last season, Tenino drew about 300 fans for home games. After finishing 6-4 last season, turnout has grown to 1,000 fans a game.
Ridout is expecting more than 2,000 fans for tonight's game against Toledo, which also is 3-1 and is in a second-place tie with the Beavers in the Southwest Washington 1A League's Evergreen Division. Montesano, a 20-0 winner against Toledo, is in first place.
"Once we started to win, a lot of people started showing up to our games," Tenino running back Jason May said. "That's really motivating. The crowd pumps you up. You want to prove we can win."
Tenino opened the season with a 43-6 victory over Stevenson, then beat Vashon Island 13-6 in overtime even though the Beavers had nearly 200 yards in penalties. Tenino overcame the whistle-happy officials and an aggressive defense.
Tenino then lost to Onalaska 20-14, with Onalaska scoring on a 15-yard run with just 20 seconds remaining. Tenino knocked off Winlock 49-6 last week.
"We should be 4-0 right now," Rid out said. "We didn't execute down the stretch against Onalaska."
Tenino, with an offensive line made up entirely of seniors, is winning with an explosive running game that's helping the Beavers average 28 points per game. May, a junior who moved into the starting lineup two games into last season, has rushed for 454 yards on 53 carries, averaging 8.6 yards per carry. He's topped 100 yards three times and has scored seven touchdowns.
"We have a lot of talent on this team," May said.
Tenino quarterback Ryan Huber has rushed for 184 yards on 27 carries, and fullback Dylan Fant has 106 yards on 18 carries.
Last year, Tenino had its first winning season in nearly 20 years.
"Our kids are very competitive," Ridout said. "They refuse to lose."