High School Football

Ward says no magic formula for Cubs’ fast rise

Sedro-Woolley’s rise to prominence isn’t so much a surprise as it is a question of how the Cubs got here.

The Sedro-Woolley football program was by no means in shambles when coach Dave Ward took over three years ago. The Cubs were coming off a seven-win season.

But what Ward brought to Sedro in 2012 was instant credibility for a starving program that hadn’t reached the state playoffs since 1991.

And Ward’s track record speaks for itself.

He coached 18 seasons at Oak Harbor, leading the Wildcats to five state playoff appearances and a 2006 Class 4A state title. He posted a 48-6 record at Archbishop Murphy from 2008-11, playing for two state titles, once losing to Lynden in 2011. Last winter he was selected to the Washington State Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and in three seasons he has a Cubs team on the brink of a state championship.

Ward, whose Archbishop Murphy Wildcats lost a wild 17-16 state title game three seasons ago, will get another crack at Lynden when the two Northwest Conference teams play at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Tacoma Dome.

“That is a question that has come up a lot recently,” said Ward when asked in a phone interview how he’s turned the Cubs into a contender so quickly. “There are a lot of variables, and everyone would love to know if there is a magic formula. I have learned by making mistakes, learning the trade in Oak Harbor and then applied them at Archbishop Murphy, took some good things there and came to Sedro-Woolley.”

Awaiting Ward at Sedro-Woolley was a group of talented players who needed some extra guidance and coaching, and Ward said he’s been fortunate to have a combination of several positive factors working in his favor.

“I think the community and players were really hungry,” Ward said. “They’d gone without football success, for whatever reason, and they were really eager to have a chance and maybe think big.”

Ward credited a strong surrounding coaching staff, a good senior and junior class and team speed, among other things, for Sedro-Woolley’s fast rise.

The Cubs went 4-6 Ward’s first year, and the big breakthrough came last season when Sedro-Woolley got a taste of success, going 8-3 and reaching the state playoffs for the first time in 22 years.

“I think that was huge,” Ward said. “You can talk as much as you want. Once you make the state tournament, and we are in the top 16 and played well against a good Prosser team and really had a chance to win that game. It left a good hunger to get back into it.”

Sedro-Woolley has received strong senior leadership this year from a group of talents including Anthony Cann, Damian McDougle, Quinten Roppel, Mason Elms, Jay Burger, Jacob Farrell and Chad Wilburg. They, combined with juniors Devin Willard, Carter Crosby, Quinn Carpenter and others, have formed a potent offense and formidable defense.

Another key element to Sedro-Woolley’s rise, Ward said, has been identifying personnel and putting the right players in the right spots to succeed. The Cubs have used a bevy of running backs and have done a tremendous job highlighting each player’s talents.

Eight different running backs have scored touchdowns, and the Cubs have seven backs with more than 100 rush yards.

Ward also said the coaching staff has made football fun, and that’s been evident with the 92 kids that came out to play this fall.

“From the moment Sedro-Woolley called me and asked me to apply for the job, I just had a sense that these people were genuine,” Ward said. “I felt like I had a chance to get back in an environment where there was excitement in the building and the chance to build something special.”