Mountaineers looking for consistency with returning talent


Now in a bit lighter of a league set-up than in recent years, the Rainier football team thinks it has the skill and experience to go on a run.

Things on offense are expected to start with junior Hunter Howell, who already has written his name into the Rainier history books with new single-game reception and receiving yards records with two years left in his high school career.

Now, the directive will be to get the ball in his hands as much as possible.

“He’s evened out a little bit more where he’s going to get some handoffs from the halfback position, as well as line up out wide,” coach Andy Bartell said. “Hunter, we’re looking for him to have a good year.”

The Mountaineer tasked with getting him the ball will be quarterback Jake Meldrum, who returns for another year under center for the orange and black as a threat both in the air and on the ground.

“His decision-making was good, already as a first-year starter,” Bartell said. “So now as a second-year starter, I hope that he can make the next step, making reads and keeping that decision-making as good as he can.”

To join Meldrum and Howell in the backfield, the Rainiers bring the senior duo of Jared Sprouffske and Chris Grey to balance the load.

Up front, Matthew Kenney will lead the line on both sides of the ball, leading a unit that has the size to push some teams around.

Notably, the Mountaineers won’t have to worry about pushing around the likes of Napavine, PWV, or Forks this year. Moved down into the 2B West lower division, they now share a league with Ocosta, Toutle Lake, Wahkiakum, Ilwaco, and North Beach in a group designed to promote closer games.

Rainier is still scheduled to face Toledo and Morton-White Pass from the upper divisions of the 2B ranks, but after two straight years of not being able to play a full season, the new-look schedule could help the Mountaineers as a sort of runway to get back to where they want to be as a program.

“I think we should be in a league where we can compete, with a chance to get in with the upper level teams at the end, putting together a year where we’re consistently winning,” Bartell said. “You never know, once you get confidence, what can happen at the end.”