Washington’s Top 50 high school football teams: Could big, physical No. 11 Kennewick be poised for another deep 3A playoff run?

SBLive is previewing the Top 50 high school teams in Washington ahead of the fall 2021 season. Here’s an inside look at the Kennewick Lions of the 4A/3A Mid-Columbia Conference – the No. 11 team in our countdown.

SPRING 2021 IN REVIEW

5-1 in 4A/3A Mid-Columbia Conference (second place).

COACH’S RESUMÉ

  • Randy Affholter, third season (previously 22 years at Ellensburg).
  • Overall record: 16-3.
  • Coordinators (base scheme): Offense – Rich Harris (spread). Defense – Steve Reeves (3-4).

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

LB JoJo Barajas

OL Alex Fouts

DB Max Mayer

DL Kannon Ness

QB Elijah Tanner

RETURNING STARTERS

Offense – 6. Defense – 5.

TOP PLAYERS

TE/LB Bronson Childs 6-5, 220, sr.

OL/DL Ayden Knapik, 6-6, 250, sr.

DL Nathan Knapik, 6-5, 210, soph.

RB/LB Myles Mayovsky 6-1, 205, sr.

RB Dylin McIntyre, 6-2, 190, soph.

WR/DB Austin Stoddard, 6-1, 295, sr.

OL/DL Ashton Tripp, 6-6, 280, jr.

DL/WR David Wacsenke, 6-3, 190, soph.

THREE TO SEE

Bronson Childs, defensive end/linebacker

Made an impact on the team’s 3A state semifinal run, then moved to Idaho to play his junior season when Washington’s was postponed. His speed at 6-5, 245 is the type that gives opposing coordinators fits.

Ayden Knapik, offensive tackle/defensive end

Gifted pass rusher made a name for himself in the spring, earning co-MCC lineman of the year honors. His basketball footwork helped him greatly when coaches moved him to left tackle.

Myles Mayovsky, running back

When he gets a full head of steam, this big tailback is menacing, especially when he lowers his head. Two-way first team all-MCC pick, who was a 2019 all-state pick is best running back Affholter has ever coached.

FALL SEASON OUTLOOK

In 2019, Kennewick asserted itself among a loaded Class 3A bracket by brandishing a style of physical, hard-nosed play that enabled it to go toe to toe with perennial powerhouse O’Dea in the state semifinals.

It was the Lions’ first playoff trip in four years – and it came in Randy Affholter’s first season. Two years later, Kennewick might be more dangerous. 

If you thought the two-headed trench duo of 6-6, 250-pound Big Sky prospect Ayden Knapik and 6-6, 280-pound Ashton Tripp was imposing, senior Bronson Childs returns from Idaho, where he played his junior season during Washington’s COVID-19 shutdown. 

Childs will play tight end, linebacker and showed lots of potential over the summer rotating in at defensive end, giving the Lions a three-headed monster on the defensive line.

“His impact is going to be big,” Affholter said.

Knapik and Tripp will be tasked with coaching up a talented, yet inexperienced group of rotating interior linemen, including sophomore Nathan Knapik.

Elsewhere, depth isn’t a concern. The Lions return around eight rotating wide receivers, headlined by physical two-way starter Austin Stoddard. And they are set to replace all-league linebacker JoJo Barajas with a stable of capable underclassmen, headlined by Dylan McIntyre and Ayden Metz. 

The Lions will have one of the state’s most impactful two-way players back in running back/linebacker Myles Mayovsky, who is coming off a slew of injuries in the spring where he saw action with a cast on his hand. He holds an offer from Army.

His physical brand of play, which was on display when he accounted for some 1,900 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore, should set the tone.

The Lions won’t need to travel around the state to find good competition. They face formidable 4A opponents such as Chiawana, Richland and Kamiakin in their league slate.

The question is, can they get through that gauntlet unscathed and mount another playoff run?

“Since (the MCC) is physical week in, week out, it preps you for a tournament run,” Affholter said. “But because of that, you as a program need to prep kids for the physicality. If you don’t, you won’t survive.”

FALL 2021 SCHEDULE

  • Sept. 3 at Walla Walla
  • Sept. 10 vs. Southridge
  • Sept. 16 at West Valley
  • Sept. 24 at Pasco
  • Oct. 1 vs. Hanford 
  • Oct. 8 at Kamiakin
  • Oct. 14 vs. Hermiston
  • Oct. 22 at Chiawana
  • Oct. 29 vs. Richland

(Featured photo by Scott Butner)

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