Which makes what they’ve done one year later all the more remarkable.
King’s Way (2-0) has opened the first two weeks with road wins over Stevenson and Ilwaco, outscoring the two teams by a combined 79-14.
At Stevenson, a handful of the team’s 11 seniors won their first game wearing a King’s Way uniform since their freshmen season in 2019. For others, it was their first ever.
The early results don’t mean the Knights are satisfied, especially with Trico League play starting in a couple weeks. But, they’ve gained some much-needed confidence while validating the work players and coaches have put in to get the program moving in the right direction.
“We’ve built this,” Duke said, gesturing toward players and coaches running through practice on the turf field. “We’re 2-0 so far, we’ve gained more players, more respect.”
The high school program is up to 38 players (it had 26 last year) with an additional 30 players on the middle school team, which practices on the same field opposite the high school players to “keep those kids connected and keep them looking at a bigger picture themselves, so they can see themselves out here really soon,” Mancillas said.
The small-school atmosphere at King’s Way means practically everyone knows each other. Building connections among players is pretty easy. They practice, attend classes, hang out away from school and pray together.
“At most schools, I would say the underclassmen don’t hang out with the upperclassmen, but that’s not the case on our team,” senior receiver and linebacker Alec Charlton said.
Being at a small school also means there’s no hiding, no blending in with a crowd. During the winless season, in addition to the chatter aimed at them from opposing teams, players also heard about their misfortunes upon returning to school.
“Last year, we’d come to school on Monday and never hear the end. We were getting blown out. It’s just the truth of the matter,” said Duke, a receiver and defensive back.
The program resumed after gaining some momentum during the spring of 2021 with an impromptu middle school season led by Mancillas. From that, an interest grew within the community to bring back football at the high school level.
“I’ve gone here since kindergarten. It’s been a great time coming back and playing for my home school,” Sweeney said. “Just the pride that comes with it. We just want to show people what King’s Way football is about and how good we can be.”