The 2016 high school football season opens Friday, Sept. 2. Here’s a look at The Bellingham Herald’s preseason power rankings for the 11-man football teams in Whatcom County:
After two straight trips to the 2A state quarterfinals, the Storm moves up to the 3A Wesco North in 2016. Fortunately, they return a lot from last year, particularly at the skill positions and at linebacker. If Squalicum can develop up front, there’s no reason to think they can’t get back to state as a 3A.
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2. Mount Baker
The Mountaineers have advanced to at least the 1A state quarterfinals the past four years, showing a tremendous ability to replace key players each year. They return standout Jed Schleimer and a handful of other key players this year, but they still look to some new faces to step up.
The Lions are not happy at all about missing out on the 2A state playoffs last year for the first time in nearly a decade. Coach Curt Kramme said his team has come in hungry to return in 2016. They’ll have some key holes to fill, but expect their defense to be strong, especially up front.
Like Squalicum, the Golden Eagles are excited to move to the 3A Wesco, rather than be the only 3A school in the Northwest Conference. Though Ferndale is not as big as it’s been in recent years, it has tremendous team speed – something the Golden Eagles hope to take advantage of in 2016.
The Trojans have advanced to the 1A state playoffs six of the past seven years, and there’s no reason to think they won’t make it in 2016. With their quarterback back and the return of a few other 1A All-NWC performers, look for Meridian to be competitive again.
It’s been four years since the Borderites qualified for state, coinciding with their move back to the 2A ranks. Even as one of the smaller 2A schools in the state, Blaine feels it has a chance this year with the return of running back Riley Fritsch and four offensive linemen, but defense will prove to be key.
The Red Raiders played an unattached schedule the past two years, giving themselves a chance to rebuild the program and create a positive attitude. After going 5-5 and 6-4 and with numbers up, it’s time to see exactly how well the plan worked during the grind of one of the toughest 2A leagues in the state.
8. Lynden Christian
The Lyncs welcome a familiar face back to the head coaching position, as Dan Kaemingk takes over for his cousin. Kaemingk has coached LC’s defense the past three seasons, but with a new offensive coordinator, the Lyncs are also hoping to put more points on the board in 2016.
9. Nooksack Valley
The Pioneers certainly took their lumps last year, going 1-9. But the good news is the team returns 11 players on each side of the ball this fall. Nooksack Valley is hoping last year’s growing pains turn into success this year in what figures to be a hotly contested 1A NWC race.
The Mariners won five games combined the past two seasons and haven’t had a winning season since 2004. With numbers down this year and the 2A NWC as fierce as ever, it might be difficult to turn that trend around this fall, but Sehome is trying to boost the team energy and have a little fun.