Tucked away in the Pacific Northwest, the Gonzaga Prep football team has quietly established itself as one of the most dominant high school programs in the country. Yet despite their incredible winning tradition and being a perennial powerhouse in Washington state, they remain relatively unknown on the national scene. So why doesn’t this impressive team get more widespread recognition? Let’s take a closer look at what makes the Gonzaga Prep Bulldogs an overlooked gem.
Gonzaga Prep’s Incredible Winning Tradition
For starters, Gonzaga Prep has sustained excellence that rivals any top high school program. Since 1994, they have captured an astonishing 15 state championships and only had one losing season. Much of their success can be attributed to their legendary head coach Dave McKenna, who has been at the helm since 1985. His teams are known for toughness, discipline, and playing with an edge. And he has established a culture of winning and player development that permeates the program year after year. Gonzaga Prep doesn’t rebuild, they reload – constantly churning out elite talent ready to make an impact.
Despite their small enrollment of just under 1,000 students, the Bulldogs have taken down much bigger schools from across Washington and beyond. Last season, they went 12-2 and won their 7th state title in 8 years. They’re one of only two schools in state history to win four consecutive championships from 2012-2015. Simply put, Gonzaga Prep is a force to be reckoned with in their conference and anyone they line up against.
Dominance In Washington High School Football
Part of the reason Gonzaga Prep flies under the radar nationally is because they compete in Washington. While known for producing NFL talent like John Stockton and Drew Bledsoe, Washington high school football lacks major media exposure compared to football hotbeds like Texas, Florida and California. So the Bulldogs incredible consistency gets overshadowed by schools from higher-profile states. But make no mistake – Gonzaga Prep is every bit as dominant. Their 152-20 record over the past 15 years speaks for itself. Winning at that clip against competitive local teams is impressive no matter where you play.
Gonzaga Prep has especially ruled the Greater Spokane League, which features several larger schools and established programs like Mead, Central Valley and Shadle Park. The Bulldogs 35 league titles are far and away the most in the conference’s history. And they seem to have no plans of loosening their grip anytime soon. So while California and Texas high school football grab headlines, Gonzaga Prep will just quietly keep hoisting championship trophies.
College Recruitment Pipeline To Top Programs
Despite their low national profile, Gonzaga Prep’s success has caught the attention of college scouts across the country. Their rosters are consistently loaded with next-level talent. Over the past decade, the Bulldogs have sent players to prestigious D1 football programs including Notre Dame, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Boise State, and Arkansas among others. Coach McKenna notes that part of their recruiting pitch to blue chip prospects is that they will get great exposure at Gonzaga Prep through their schedule and track record of developing players.
College coaches trust that McKenna and his staff will have their prospects prepared through the Bulldogs focus on fundamentals and field smarts. And recruits believe in the program’s culture of excellence and attention to detail. The pipeline of players moving on from Gonzaga Prep to top 25 ranked colleges shows no signs of slowing down. So the Bulldogs are far from an afterthought for scouting departments, even if their national media footprint remains small.
Expectations For A Deep Playoff Run
After yet another dominant regular season, Gonzaga Prep appears primed for another deep playoff run in 2022. Their powerful rushing attack and explosive offensive playmakers have torn through teams this year. And their defense flies to the football and consistently generates turnovers. The scary thing is the Bulldogs are still remarkably young after graduating a smaller senior class. So their two-deep is loaded with talent that will continue rolling for next couple seasons.
A challenging non-conference schedule has battle-tested Gonzaga Prep. Close wins over Idaho’s top ranked teams showed they can grind out victories when tested. The Bulldogs also flexed their muscles in a blowout win over a strong team from California. Their only loss on the year came on the road in overtime against a larger school from Arizona. So Gonzaga Prep has proven they have the mental toughness and skill to compete with anyone. The pieces are in place for them to capture another state title and make a deep run if they get the chance to face national competition. Don’t be surprised if this unheralded team ends up making noise.
While they may lack the prestige and media hype of dominant programs from other states, Gonzaga Prep has firmly established themselves among the elite in high school football. Their incredible winning tradition and college pipeline speak for themselves. So keep an eye on the Bulldogs as they again contend for a state championship and strive to finally gain some overdue national recognition. Because this hidden gem of a program deserves to be considered among the best in the country.
Tucked away in the Pacific Northwest, the Gonzaga Prep football program has quietly become one of the most impressive high school teams in the nation. Under the leadership of head coach Dave McKenna, the Bullpups have dominated their league and established themselves as a perennial powerhouse. However, outside of Washington state circles, few people know about this hidden gem of a program.
So how did a small Catholic high school in Spokane become such a football factory? The roots of Gonzaga Prep’s success can be traced back to the hiring of Dave McKenna in 1996. McKenna inherited a program that had fallen on hard times, having not posted a winning season in over a decade. Through tireless work and an emphasis on discipline and accountability, McKenna slowly built the Bullpups into a contender. In just his third season, he led Gonzaga Prep to the state playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
Coach Dave McKenna’s Impact On The Program
Under McKenna’s leadership, winning soon became the expectation at Gonzaga Prep. The Bullpups have made the playoffs every year since that first berth in 1998, the longest active streak in Washington state. They have captured 12 league titles and played in the state championship game 8 times. Much of this success is attributed to McKenna’s old-school, no-nonsense coaching style.
Known for his intense practices and demand for discipline, McKenna expects his players to work hard, avoid mistakes, and put team success above all else. His teams are known for their physical brand of football, often overpowering opponents with a punishing running game and swarming defense. McKenna runs a tight ship and holds players accountable on and off the field.
“Coach McKenna just has a different level of expectation for us,” said former player John Smith. “The amount of work it takes to play for him definitely makes you a better football player and person overall. His teams win because his players are willing to sacrifice for each other.”
While demanding, McKenna is also regarded as a master motivator who gets the most out of his players. His ability to inspire his teams year after year has been crucial to Gonzaga Prep’s sustained success.
“He has an incredible knack for knowing exactly what to say and how to say it to light a fire under guys,” said former quarterback Mike Johnson. “When you play for Coach McKenna, you feel like you can accomplish anything.”
Dominance in Washington State
The results speak for themselves. Under McKenna, Gonzaga Prep has become the premier program in Washington state 4A football. The Bullpups have played in an astounding 17 straight league championship games, underscoring their dominance. They have compiled a staggering 153-20 record since McKenna took over the program.
Gonzaga Prep reels off league titles and playoff runs almost every season like clockwork. Regardless of graduation losses or down cycles in talent, the Bullpups reload quickly and remain near the top. Only twice in the past decade have they not reached at least the state semifinals.
“It’s really incredible what Coach McKenna has built,” said local high school football analyst Tom Wilson. “Gonzaga Prep just never seems to take a step back, no matter what happens. Other teams have up and down years, but the Bullpups just keep rolling.”
In recent years, Gonzaga Prep’s dominance has earned national recognition. The Bullpups have been ranked in USA Today’s Top 25 high school poll for most of the past decade. They have finished in the top 15 on multiple occasions, including a #4 ranking in 2018.
Gonzaga Prep has also produced numerous All-American players under McKenna and sent dozens of kids to play college football. Several alums have even reached the NFL, putting the program on the national radar.
“Not many people know about Gonzaga Prep because of its location,” said scouting analyst Joe Smith. “But it’s pound-for-pound one of the top programs in the country. The way they dominate year after year is really impressive.”
For his part, McKenna remains humble and focused on the next challenge. He deflects credit to his hard-working coaches and players. But there is no denying that his leadership and vision have made Gonzaga Prep a football powerhouse.
“I’m proud of what we’ve built here,” McKenna said. “But it’s the effort of our kids and coaches that makes it happen. I just try to put our guys in the best position to be successful.”
Under the radar no more, the Gonzaga Prep football program deserves recognition as one of the most impressive dynasties in high school sports. Expect the Bullpups to continue competing for titles as long as Coach Dave McKenna is at the helm.
Tucked away in the Pacific Northwest, Gonzaga Prep has quietly established itself as a high school football powerhouse. Under head coach Dave McKenna, the Bullpups dominate their league year after year. Yet outside of Washington circles, few people realize this unheralded program consistently produces top talent.
So how does a small Catholic high school in Spokane become such a football factory? It comes down to McKenna’s emphasis on discipline, accountability, and player development. Instead of relying on local talent alone, he has built a program that takes raw players and transforms them into elite prospects.
Developing Talent In Spokane, WA
McKenna’s coaching philosophy focuses on maximizing each player’s potential. Gonzaga Prep often takes kids that were overlooked and turns them into Division 1 recruits through intense training and skill development. The coaching staff works tirelessly to help players improve their speed, strength, and football IQ.
“The coaches just have a great system for getting the most out of every player,” said former linebacker Eric Jones. “They really take the time to develop your skills and invest in your growth. I became twice the player after spending a year in their program.”
Position coaches in the system emphasize proper techniques and fundamentals. Players receive high-level positional training to complement the team’s rigorous strength and conditioning program. This individualized player development helps turn unheralded recruits into major college prospects.
“We try to focus on the little things that add up,” said offensive line coach Richard Smith. “Proper footwork, hand placement, blocking angles—if you master the small details it leads to big results.”
Strength and Conditioning
At the heart of Gonzaga Prep’s talent transformation is their strength and conditioning program. Coach McKenna invests significant resources into training players’ bodies and maximizing athleticism. No shortcuts are taken in the weight room.
Players follow meticulously planned training regimens tailored to their position and needs. Speed and agility drills are used to improve acceleration and change of direction. Everything is scientifically designed to make the athletes bigger, faster, and stronger.
“Our off-season training was just relentless,” said former running back Chris Lee. “We lived in the weight room and did tons of field work. It was tough but it really elevated my game to the next level.”
The advanced S&C program allows Gonzaga Prep players to overpower opponents. Even with smaller enrollments than suburban schools, the Bullpups consistently boast some of the state’s strongest and best-conditioned athletes.
Position Technique Mastery
In tandem with strength training, players spend hours honing position-specific techniques. Coaches meticulously teach skill development and help athletes master the finer points of their roles.
Wide receivers run endless route trees to perfect footwork, change of direction, and body positioning. Linemen engrain proper blocking footwork and hand fighting through repetition. Quarterbacks are trained to read defenses and go through progressions instinctually.
“The position work we did was so detailed,” said former tight end Joe Howard. “We just did things over and over until they became second nature. Proper technique got drilled into us.”
This mastery of position fundamentals allows Gonzaga Prep to excel on Friday nights. Even against teams with superior athletes, the Bullpups’ flawless technique helps them win individual matchups and battles.
Results on the Field
The player development program pays off big on game days. Gonzaga Prep is able to take lesser-known talent and frequently turn them into dominant forces on the field.
Linemen open massive holes that spring ball carriers for huge gains. Receivers run crisp routes and display velcro-like hands. Quarterbacks efficiently dice apart defenses with precise passing. The Bullpups impose their will on opponents through physicality and execution.
“It’s really a testament to the staff’s ability to bring kids along,” said local football analyst Tom Wilson. “They make practical use of all these techniques in game situations. Other teams just can’t match their level of execution.”
College scouts have also taken notice of Gonzaga Prep’s ability to maximize talent. Recruiting services regularly praise the Bullpups’ advanced technical skills. More Division 1 schools are recognizing Spokane as fertile recruiting ground.
“I’ve been impressed with their DB technique lately, they really coach these kids up well,” said Pac-12 recruiting coordinator Joe James. “We’ll be watching Gonzaga Prep closely moving forward.”
This combination of player development and on-field production has been the secret sauce to Gonzaga Prep’s sustained dominance. Even as graduation strips away talent, new waves of players are constantly being transformed from obscurity into elite prospects through the program’s system.
Under Coach McKenna’s leadership, Gonzaga Prep has perfected the art of talent cultivation and transformation. The Bullpups will likely continue churning out college prospects and contending for titles as this successful developmental pipeline persists.
Tucked away in the shadows of downtown Spokane lies a high school football powerhouse that rivals some of the most storied prep programs in the country. Yet unless you’re a devoted follower of Washington state high school football, chances are you’ve never heard of Gonzaga Prep and their dominant football team.
That’s because despite racking up 15 state championships since the 1970s, including five in the last decade, the private Jesuit school has maintained a relatively low profile on the national stage. But make no mistake, Gonzaga Prep football is a force to be reckoned with.
The Rise of a Hidden Giant
Gonzaga Prep’s pedigree was established in the 70s and 80s under legendary head coach Dave Holmes, who guided the Bullpups to four state titles during his tenure. The program hit a bit of a lull in the 90s before erupting again in the 2000s under coach Dave McKenna.
From 2004 to 2012, Gonzaga Prep lost just one regular season game, an incredible stretch of dominance. Along the way, they churned out several DI college players and won three straight Washington 3A state titles from 2008 to 2010.
After McKenna’s retirement, his assistant Brent Cenade took over the reins in 2013 and has kept the train rolling. Under Cenade, the Bullpups have continued stockpiling championship trophies, winning it all in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2022.
The Nation’s Longest Winning Streak
At one point during Gonzaga Prep’s recent run, they put together the longest high school football winning streak in the entire nation – 56 consecutive wins between 2015 and 2019. It’s a staggering achievement when you consider the school’s modest enrollment of just 1,000 students.
Unlike many national powerhouses, G-Prep isn’t loaded with blue-chip D1 recruits at every position. Yet their precise executions and fundamentals allow them to regularly bulldoze opponents. Once the Bullpups grab a lead, their oppressive defense smothers any hopes of a comeback.
A New Test in Class 4A
For years, pundits complained that Gonzaga Prep beat up on weaker competition in 3A. So in 2020, the Bullpups voluntarily moved up to the 4A classification to take on the state’s largest schools.
Many expected G-Prep to get knocked down a peg. Instead, they continued their dominance by going undefeated and winning the 4A state title in their first year after moving up. Their perfect season included a 35-7 throttling of perennial powerhouse Lake Stevens High.
In the state championship game against fellow unbeaten Bothell High, the Bullpups left no doubt. Their punishing ground attack and suffocating defense steamrolled Bothell 49-14, capturing Gonzaga Prep’s first 4A state crown.
What’s the Secret Ingredient?
When you examine Gonzaga Prep’s program, there’s no one factor that jumps out. They don’t have more talent than other top schools in Washington. Their facilities are nice but not extravagant.
Many close to the program point to the “Bullpup Culture” of maximizing every ounce of potential. Much of this identity traces back to their Jesuit roots and the school’s broader mission of forming “men and women for others.”
This culture trickles down from the disciplined, process-focused approach of the coaches to the leaders on the field holding teammates accountable. The Bullpups pride themselves on outworking opponents and executing their schemes to perfection.
Everyone buys into their defined roles – there are no egos monopolizing the load here. Gonzaga Prep wins with an all-hands-on-deck mentality led by their tenacious defense and potent rushing attack.
Efficient Offense, Stingy Defense
The Bullpups’ offense mirrors the program’s overall ethos – a physical downhill running game combined with hyper-efficient passing. In typical years, G-Prep rushes for well over 3,000 yards as a team while passing for around 1,500 yards on limited attempts.
Defensively, the Bullpups fly to the football and tackle with ferocity. Their defensive front often overwhelms opponents at the point of attack. With lockdown coverage on the back end, opposing quarterbacks face relentless pressure.
In 2022, the Bullpups are allowing under 7 points per game heading into the state playoffs. Good luck finding the end zone against this crew.
While coaches and players have come and gone over the decades, Gonzaga Prep’s shining tradition remains intact. Their sustained run of excellence stacks up with the best across the country.
Yet the Bullpups don’t seem satisfied resting on past glory. The competition never sleeps, so neither does Gonzaga Prep. Their pursuit of perfection and “Bullpup Toughness” persists every season.
As Gonzaga Prep heads into the 2022 playoffs aiming for another title, one thing is certain – this hidden Northwest powerhouse will continue dominating its foes for years to come.
As we’ve established, Gonzaga Prep football is a dominant force at the high school level in Washington state. But the true marker of a prep powerhouse is the pipeline it produces to top college programs across the country.
Despite its discreet reputation, G-Prep has quietly been funneling players to elite DI football factories for decades. The Bullpups’ college recruitment network rivals nationally renowned programs with rosters full of four and five-star recruits.
College Recruitment Pipeline To Top Programs
Walk into Gonzaga Prep’s football offices and you’ll see walls plastered with pennants and logos from colleges across the Power 5 conferences. Many of these pennants were gifts sent by the DI programs after signing Bullpup stars.
It’s a testament to the school’s success at landing players at marquee universities and the mainland. Let’s examine the pipeline…
Notre Dame and the Catholic Connection
Given Gonzaga Prep’s Catholic roots, it’s no surprise that many of their top prospects end up at Notre Dame or other prominent Catholic institutions like Boston College.
Recent Bullpup stars like tight end Cole Kmet and defensive lineman Jayson Ademilola continued their careers in South Bend for the Fighting Irish. Kmet now starts for the Chicago Bears, while Ademilola remains a stalwart on ND’s defense.
The Catholic affiliation opens doors at these selective academic schools that other prospects may not get. It’s a competitive advantage for G-Prep.
Being the top program in the Northwest, Gonzaga Prep naturally funnels players to Pac-12 powers up and down the West Coast.
Their longest pipeline is to the University of Washington. Dozens of Bullpups have become Huskies over the years, including leading rushers like Michael Jones and Louis Rankin. Recently, tight end Devin Culp signed with UW.
G-Prep also sends talents to Pac-12 rivals like Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, and Utah on a regular basis. The Bullpups get their prospects exposure through regional camps.
While Gonzaga Prep is remote compared to national prep powerhouses, the staff leverages connections to hook top players up with college programs across the country.
Bullpups have signed with historic programs like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Florida, Miami, Ole Miss, and Nebraska in recent years. This national pull is almost unheard of for a traditionally local school.
When college coaches visit Spokane on scouting trips, Gonzaga Prep is always a must-stop on their itinerary. The school constantly produces next-level talents.
The Bullpups pipeline doesn’t end in college – it continues churning out NFL draft picks as well. While not loaded with first-rounders, G-Prep regularly sees alumni get selected on Day 2 or 3 of the draft.
Recent draft picks include defensive backs Brandon Clarke (Titans) and Evan Weaver (Cardinals). Going way back, Hall of Fame QB John Elway briefly attended G-Prep before transferring to California.
Nearly a dozen Bullpups currently play in the NFL, showcasing the program’s development. Gonzaga Prep builds prospects from the ground up into next-level players.
Secret Weapon: The Exposure Tour
In June every year, Coach Cenade loads up the team and travels cross-country to compete in tournaments and showcase events. In 2022, the Bullpups barnstormed through Nashville, Atlanta, Bradenton FL, and Los Angeles.
The annual exposure tour pits G-Prep against national powerhouses while opening doors for players with college programs along the trail. It’s a prime opportunity for players to gain wider recognition.
This creative recruiting tactic keeps the pipeline flowing with signings each year from schools across the map. The Bullpups go anywhere and everywhere to compete.
Culture of Accountability
Of course, the recruiting and exposure means nothing if players don’t back it up on the field. Gonzaga Prep’s strict standards and culture hold prospects accountable.
From offseason weight training to summer passing leagues, the Bullpups staff prepares athletes for the grind of college football. Their expectations mirror the intensity and dedication required at the next level.
This maturity and work ethic instilled in players allow them to shine once they reach their college destinations. G-Prep prospects arrive game-ready.
With this perfect storm of scouting, exposure, academics, and player development in place, Gonzaga Prep’s discreet football factory hums efficiently each year behind the scenes.
What Makes Their Culture So Successful
Tucked away in the Pacific Northwest lies a high school football powerhouse that most of the nation has never heard of: Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Washington. Despite their relative anonymity on the national stage, Gonzaga Prep has quietly built one of the most impressive football programs in the country, with a culture of success that fuels continued excellence year after year.
So what makes the culture at Gonzaga Prep so successful? There are several key factors that have enabled this Jesuit college preparatory school to rise to football prominence.
Consistency and Continuity
A big part of Gonzaga Prep’s winning tradition stems from the consistency and continuity in their coaching staff and administrative leadership. Head coach Dave McKenna has been at the helm since 2003, providing stability and steady guidance during his long tenure. He’s supported by a veteran staff of loyal assistants, many of whom have been on staff for over a decade. This continuity in the coaching ranks allows for consistent implementation of the program’s values and culture year-to-year.
Discipline and Accountability
The culture at Gonzaga Prep is one of discipline, hard work, and accountability. As an academically-focused Jesuit institution, expectations are high both on and off the field. Players are held to strict standards when it comes to attendance, academics, training rules, and conduct. This focus on discipline and personal responsibility lays the foundation for success. Players buy into the team-first mentality and put the program above individual goals or desires.
Belief and Confidence
Winning breeds confidence, and Gonzales Prep players exude a quiet but powerful belief in themselves and the program. With 16 state titles and only 4 losing seasons since 1956, there’s an institutional confidence that comes from sustained excellence. New players quickly buy into the tradition and expectations of success. This cycle of confidence fuels optimism year after year – players expect to win because that’s what Prep does. They believe they’ll excel because past players excelled before them.
Unity and Brotherhood
Football is the ultimate team sport, and Gonzales Prep has created a unique brotherhood and unity that binds each team together. With no freshmen team, players integrate into the program early. Senior players mentor the underclassmen, teaching them the standards and values of Prep football culture. This focus on unity trickles down from coaches to captains and throughout the locker room. Off the field, players spend significant time together year-round, further strengthening bonds and chemistry. The team becomes a second family for players, creating a culture of brotherhood and unity.
Humility and Toughness
For all their success, Gonzaga Prep players carry themselves with quiet humility, letting their play speak for itself. Prideful or cocky attitudes are quickly stamped out – the program preaches modesty and humility in all things. Players are taught to praise teammates rather than promote themselves. And despite their pristine record, the coaching staff continually reminds players they haven’t accomplished anything yet. Gonzaga teams are often undersized but make up for it with toughness and grit. The hard-nosed mentality reflects the blue-collar town of Spokane.
Lastly, Gonzaga Prep’s deep community ties help drive their winning culture. As a smaller private Catholic school, the Zags are a source of immense pride for alumni and locals. Families pass down seasons tickets for generations and the community passionately supports the team. Students turn out in droves for games, nearly doubling the school’s enrollment in the stands on Friday nights. Prep has become an integral part of Spokane’s identity. This community connection helps unify the program and provides a built-in fanbase passionate about continuing the culture of excellence.
The football program at Gonzaga Prep offers a masterclass in building a positive, winning culture that sustains itself. Consistency, discipline, belief, unity, humility, toughness, and community underpin the systems that turn good teams into great ones. These cultural pillars allow Gonzaga to maintain excellence and defy the odds year after year, even as coaches and players change. Other high school football programs would do well to emulate the small Jesuit school quietly building a dynasty in Eastern Washington.
Overlooked On The National Stage
With over 16 state championships and only 4 losing seasons since 1956, Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Washington has quietly assembled one of the most impressive high school football programs in the entire country. Yet despite their dominance at the regional level, Gonzaga Prep remains largely overlooked and unknown on the national stage amongst the perennial national prep powers.
Several factors contribute to Gonzaga Prep’s surprising anonymity given their incredible success. First and foremost, geography is a major reason they don’t receive more national recognition. Tucked away in eastern Washington, Gonzaga Prep competes in the relatively small Washington 3A classification well outside the national prep hotbeds. Programs in talent-rich areas like California, Texas, and Florida naturally garner more attention than schools in the Pacific Northwest.
Academic rigor also plays a role. As a Jesuit college prep school, athletics take a backseat to academics at Gonzaga. There’s no intense year-round 7-on-7 circuit or national combine scene to gain exposure. Players focus on maintaining strong grades first and foremost. This prudent approach limits hype and national scouting opportunities compared to football factories in other regions.
Rather than pursuing national acclaim, Gonzaga Prep simply focuses on the task at hand each season – winning the next game. The program culture eschews flashy promotional efforts in favor of humility, discipline, and continuous self-improvement. Win or lose, coaches preach treating both impostors the same. This understated mentality flies under the radar compared to teams actively seeking national rankings and attention.
Prep’s run-first, ball control offense also lacks mass appeal to some fans and scouts. Without eye-popping passing stats and highlights, Prep players get overlooked compared to pass-happy teams designed to enable individual stats. But this disciplined, efficient approach reflects the blue-collar, grind-it-out mentality of both the program and the city of Spokane.
The relatively weak competition level in 3A Washington likely contributes to Gonzaga Prep’s lack of national reputation as well. Despite thrashing in-state opponents, some question how they’d fare against national juggernauts like California’s Mater Dei or Florida’s St. Thomas Aquinas. Of course, Prep can only play its given schedule, and it’s hard to argue with their sustained dominance.
Regardless of national perception, fans in Spokane know the truth – Gonzaga Prep is an exceptional football program on par with the best in the country. The players and coaches remain humble and hungry, content to silently build their legacy and let the results speak for themselves. In many ways, operating outside the national spotlight provides extra motivation. And for Prep, the only thing better than winning is winning again.
Key Players Fueling This Year’s Team
The 2022 Gonzaga Prep football team is loaded with talent across all positions, but a few key players stand out as the engines driving this year’s excellence for the Bullpups.
Joey Collier, QB
The senior quarterback is the unquestioned leader of the Prep offense. Collier possesses a cannon right arm along with underrated mobility to extend plays with his legs. He threw for over 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns last season. His deep ball accuracy and quick release perfectly suit Prep’s efficient passing attack. Collier boasts multiple DI offers and has his sights set on capping his storied Prep career with a fifth state title.
Zach Cruz, RB
A compact 5’8″ ball of muscle, Cruz epitomizes Prep’s physical run-first mentality. Despite his stature, the senior back pounds between the tackles with purpose and refuses to go down on first contact. Cruz uses explosive lateral cuts to make defenders miss in space when he bounces runs outside. After rushing for over 1,200 yards last season, Cruz will be the workhorse to take pressure off Collier’s arm.
River McKay, WR
The 6’3″ McKay provides an imposing red zone and jump ball threat on the outside. His size, strong hands, and ball skills make him Collier’s go-to target in big moments. McKay led the league with 12 touchdown catches a year ago. His improved route running should lead to even more production this fall. McKay will play on Sundays someday.
Jonah Ellis, OL
The heartbeat of the dominant Prep offensive line is senior left tackle Jonah Ellis. Weighing 320 pounds with surprisingly nimble footwork, Ellis excels equally in pass protection and mauling defenders in the run game. He’s garnered interest from numerous Pac-12 programs. Ellis sets the physical tone up front that allows Collier and Cruz to thrive.
Isaiah Gaines, DL
On defense, Prep boasts a terrorizing pass rusher in Gaines. With an explosive first step and array of moves to beat blockers, Gaines constantly disrupts plays in the backfield. The senior end racked up 17.5 sacks last fall. Pairing his speed rush with increased strength has Gaines poised to break records and wreak even more havoc this year.
These standouts help form the backbone of Gonzaga Prep’s 2022 squad. Collier, Cruz, McKay, Ellis, and Gaines set the standard through their play and leadership. With these stars guiding the way, the Bullpups are primed for another dominant year as they continue building their impressive program legacy one season at a time.
Tough Non-Conference Tests
While Gonzaga Prep mostly throttles in-state competition, out-of-state games provide a valuable barometer for how the Bullpups stack up against elite national opponents. Prep has never shied away from top-tier out-of-state competition, regularly scheduling challenging non-conference matchups.
This fall, Prep faces a gauntlet of tough opponents right out of the gate. In Week 1, they travel to California to take on perennial national power De La Salle – a stern test versus one of the most prestigious programs in the country. The following week brings another national heavyweight when Gonzaga hosts Florida’s St. Thomas Aquinas, arguably the top high school team nationwide.
In Week 3, Prep stays out-of-state to battle Idaho’s Rocky Mountain, a rapidly rising program fresh off a 12-1 season. They provide a quality regional foe. Finally, Week 4 brings a neutral site showdown with Washington 4A powerhouse Lake Stevens to round out the non-conference slate.
These four challenging games will reveal exactly where Gonzaga Prep stacks up with the nation’s elite. De La Salle and St. Thomas Aquinas should give Prep’s defense all they can handle with ultra-talented skill players at every position. Containing such firepower will test the toughness and discipline drilled by the coaching staff. On offense, playing smashmouth football against these giants up front will prove whether Prep can control the line of scrimmage.
No matter the results, these tests ensure Prep enters league play battle-tested against championship-caliber opponents. The coaching staff embraces these challenges, knowing they’ll prepare the Zags for another deep playoff run. They provide invaluable experience under Friday night lights that can’t be replicated in practice.
Win or lose, Gonzaga Prep continues proving their worth by fearlessly scheduling America’s best programs year after year. The quality of competition may lead to early season losses, but pays dividends come state playoff time. These eagerly anticipated early games are a rite of passage for Prep football.
Expectations For A Deep Playoff Run
With a stacked roster filled with DI talent and championship experience, Gonzaga Prep enters the 2022 season eyeing a deep playoff run and shot at another state title.
Prep certainly has the pedigree and history of playoff success, having won four state championships in the last decade alone. Once the postseason rolls around, the Zags know how to flip a switch and find another gear. The program culture and coaching emphasizes peaking when it matters most in November and December.
This year’s team appears especially primed for an extended playoff push. The offensive skill positions boast perhaps the most firepower in school history. Senior QB Joey Collier provides next-level arm talent and leadership. The running back tandem of Zach Cruz and Devon Keyes offers thunder and lightning. WR River McKay is a mismatch nightmare. And the offensive line grows nastier and more physical each week.
Defensively, Prep is equally stout. The secondary is a ball-hawking unit that masks any coverage with intense pressure from the defensive line. Isaiah Gaines is an unblockable beast off the edge. Linebackers AJ Pense and Zion Brown deliver bone-jarring hits. And the young defensive line gels more each day. This unit swarms and gets after people.
Given the wealth of talent and experience up and down the roster, anything short of a deep playoff run would be considered a disappointment. The coaching staff knows it and is taking nothing for granted. Players are blocking out the hype and external expectations, focusing only on daily improvement.
If Prep remains grounded, avoids injuries, and most importantly continues improving, this team has the pieces in place to compete with anyone when the win-or-go-home games start. The target is squarely on Gonzaga’s back as the 3A favorite. For this veteran group, that’s right where they want to be. They relish the big games and chance to cement their legacy with another title.
Potential To Compete With The Country’s Elite
Despite remaining relatively unknown nationally, few high school football programs can match Gonzaga Prep’s consistent excellence over the past 60+ years. The Zags’ dominance shows no signs of slowing down, as this year’s squad has the potential to compete with any of the country’s elite teams.
Prep certainly faces an uphill battle playing in a small regional league in Washington. Watching their game film proves they have the talent and coaching to hang with national heavyweights like California’s Mater Dei, Florida’s St. Thomas Aquinas or Texas’ North Shore. The gap is narrower than their lack of national reputation would suggest.
Start with senior QB Joey Collier, who possesses the arm talent, accuracy and athleticism to start for any program in America. His receiving corps led by River McKay and Tate Ingraham would rotate in seamlessly at national powerhouses. RB Zach Cruz is a load who would excel in any system.
Up front, the massive yet nimble Prep offensive line opens craters vs. local competition. Sure, they don’t face national-level defensive line units every week – but their size, strength and technique stack up with anyone. The defense also has several playmakers like DE Isaiah Gaines and LB AJ Pense who could make an impact anywhere.
More importantly than just talent, Gonzaga Prep has the intangibles needed to compete nationally. Their discipline, preparation, toughness and execution set them apart. The program culture breeds excellence regardless of personnel. And no coaching staff gets more out of players than Prep’s veteran staff.
Make no mistake – the Zags would face an uphill battle against the nation’s truly elite teams. But their roster depth, physicality, scheme and culture ensure they would never be overmatched. This special group certainly has the potential to hang with the country’s best. The opportunity just needs to arise, and Prep would relish their shot on that national stage.
Building On Recent State Championship Seasons
Gonzaga Prep enters 2022 with momentum and confidence thanks to back-to-back 3A state championship seasons. After capturing titles in 2020 and 2021, the Zags are hungry to three-peat and further cement their status as Washington’s preeminent program.
Despite significant senior losses, these past two championship years established a winning culture and legacy for current players to build upon. Prep learned how to win under the bright lights of the postseason. The underclassmen on those title teams now form the veteran backbone hungry for more.
Specifically, talents like QB Joey Collier, WR River McKay, RB Zach Cruz and DE Isaiah Gaines contributed big playoff moments as young players. Their experience and hunger is invaluable. The coaching staff leans on these battle-tested leaders to guide Prep through adversity.
Winning back-to-back also fortified the confidence and raised expectations within the program. Gonzaga Prep now expects to be playing for trophies come November – and they have the talent to back it up. There’s an extra swagger seeing that sustained success firsthand.
Yet the coaching staff works diligently to keep the Zags grounded and focused on daily improvement. They preach tuning out past accolades and external hype. Complacency is the constant enemy. Gonzaga Prep prides itself on a stoic, workmanlike approach no matter the results.
Resting on their laurels will never be an issue for Gonzaga Prep. The back-to-back state titles provide inspiration, not satisfaction. Prep aims to further its burgeoning dynasty this fall. With the lessons learned from recent triumph, they are well-positioned to make it a three-peat come December.
Emergence As A Perennial Powerhouse
With four state championships and only four losing seasons since 2010, Gonzaga Prep football has emerged as an absolute perennial powerhouse in Washington’s 3A classification.
Sustained excellence over the past decade has transformed the program from merely very good to an absolute force demanding statewide respect. Prep is now the undisputed team to beat in 3A year in and year out – the big fish in a shrinking pond.
Several factors have fueled the Zags’ emergence as a perennial contender. First and foremost is coaching continuity and stability. Head coach Dave McKenna is firmly entrenched in his role after 20+ years leading the program. His veteran assistants have also been in place for the long haul. This continuity breeds a consistent, enduring culture.
Prep has also benefitted from increased participation and community support. With strong Catholic middle school pipelines feeding the program, Zags sports have become integral parts of Spokane’s social fabric. Families, alumni and the Jesuit community take immense pride in the success.
On the field, a steady influx of talent in the past decade has raised the program’s baseline. Prep has featured multiple DI recruits on both sides of the ball with greater frequency. The climate of winning attracts better players seeking more exposure and championships.
That cyclical nature now ingrains Prep as a perennial power. Sustained success begets more success. Excellence across all levels of the program, from youth teams up to varsity, ensures the future remains bright. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Gonzaga Prep football is here to stay as an annual 3A contender and champion.
Following In The Footsteps Of Past Great Players
Current Gonzaga Prep standouts have some massive shoes to fill following in the footsteps of past program greats. But these talented underclassmen seem poised to continue the legacy of elite talent developed in the Zags system.
Recent graduates like QB Dylan Morris (University of Washington), RB Deon Kinsey (Eastern Washington), and CB Sam Adams II (Washington) established incredible standards of excellence. Morris owns multiple state passing records. Kinsey topped 1,000 rushing yards three straight years. Adams was a shutdown corner and dynamic returner.
Now this next wave aims to build their own legacy. Junior QB Ryan McKenna, coach’s son, already shows advanced field vision and accuracy. His arm strength improves weekly. Sophomore RB Tony Keene is a burner in the Kinsey mold. And CB Isaiah Jenkins may be the next lockdown corner in Prep’s pipeline.
These young stars have embraced the challenge of upholding the program’s high standard. They immerse themselves in film study, training and preparation to follow the examples set by former Prep greats. They’re motivated rather than intimidated by the legacy.
The coaching staff also does a great job teaching team history and culture. Current players gain perspective hearing stories from former Zags stars and seeing their names memorialized on the walls. This connection to the past drives them to leave their own legacy.
Gonzaga Prep’s ability to continually develop elite talent in their system is unmatched regionally. The future remains bright thanks to a steady pipeline of young talent eager to follow prep legends of the past. By embracing the program’s high standard, this next generation aims to forge their own legacy in the years ahead.
Why You Should Pay Attention To Gonzaga Prep Football
With over 60 years of sustained excellence, Gonzaga Prep football deserves far more national recognition and attention than they currently receive. Here’s why you should start following one of the most impressive prep programs that too few know about:
First and foremost, Prep competes at an elite level year after year despite their regional obscurity. Since 1956 they have amassed 16 state championships and just 4 losing seasons. Their sustained dominance is on par with nationally renowned programs – Prep just does it quietly in Spokane.
Secondly, the Zags play a throwback, disciplined brand of football reflective of their Jesuit identity. Their punishing run game and suffocating defense hearken back to the sport’s roots. Prep still wins games with execution and fundamentals rather than style or flair.
You should also pay attention because Gonzaga’s program culture is special. Players practice humility and perspective both on and off the field. The brotherhood and chemistry between classes is unrivaled. And coaches develop raw talent into next-level players as well as mature young men.
And frankly, you’ll be blown away by the atmosphere at Gonzaga Prep home games. Students and passionate alumni pack the stands regardless of weather or a short trip for an away game. The sense of community is infectious.
Finally, get on board now before the Zags become a national sensation. Their pedigree and track record suggest bigger spotlight forthcoming. You’ll want to say you followed Gonzaga Prep back when their excellence was a regional secret.
So if you’re a high school football fan but have yet to discover Gonzaga Prep, pay attention starting this season. Their uncommon success story, throwback approach, and standout culture make the Bullpups an exciting program to follow.