Players sprinted enthusiastically from drill to drill during the second week of the Mount Si Wildcats spring football practice sessions on June 7 in Snoqualmie.
The Wildcats, who finished the 2018 season with an overall record of 7-3, have created a culture of success predicated on hard work and determination. Team camaraderie is one of the Wildcats’ biggest strengths. The majority of the players on the roster have played all sports together since elementary school.
Mount Si senior defensive end Slater Macko believes that togetherness makes a huge difference on Friday nights.
“I think that is the biggest piece (of the team’s success). We’ve been playing together since the third or fourth grade and have all grown up together. Now we got guys going D-1 (Division-1 college football) and things like that but we are still buddies. No one is excluded. That is what drives our team,” Macko said.
The leader of the Wildcats on the gridiron is senior quarterback Cale Millen. Millen, who has already committed to the University of Oregon Division-1 football program, relishes the opportunity to lead his childhood buddies on and off the football field.
“It is awesome. I like having that on my shoulders,” Millen said of his leadership role. “I just try to bring us all together. We’re a family and we’re all accountable for each other.”
Mount Si head coach Charlie Kinnune, who has been the team’s head coach since 1992, is grateful to have one of the most gifted signal callers in Washington in the starting lineup.
“It is very nice. I sleep well at night,” Kinnune said of Millen. “There is a reason why they pay quarterbacks in the NFL 25 million dollars a year. They are just as important at the college level and the high school level. It is one of the toughest positions in sports to play, if not the toughest.”
Millen said the 44-40 loss to Monroe in the playoffs last season is something his teammates haven’t forgotten as they push themselves through spring practice sessions.
“We’re extremely motivated. We left a lot of opportunities offensively and defensively out there. We’re pissed off and firing on all cylinders right now. We are ready to go,” Millen said of his team’s mindset. “We always want to win every game. We want to be undefeated going into playoffs and make a deep run.”
Macko echoed Millen’s sentiment with regard to the loss against Monroe that ended their team’s season.
“That was one of the biggest heartbreakers I have ever had. I think about that every day. We just want to do better than last year. The coaches are pushing us hard every day,” Macko said.
Despite the loss to Monroe, Kinnune has fond memories of his team’s performance.
“That was one of the greatest games I have ever been involved with. I’m old enough to reflect on the experience and enjoy the way our kids played, even if it was a loss. It certainly gave us something to build on and definitely left a bad taste in our mouths,” Kinnune said. “We believe that our league (KingCo 4A) is the best league top to bottom in the state. We believe that steel sharpens steel and believe that if we come out of a game healthy, we’re better than we were before we entered it and that is because of who we play. We’re proud to be a member of the KingCo 4A league and I look forward to every Friday night playing against these teams.”
Kinnune will be in his 27th season as head coach of the Wildcat football program this fall. The longtime head coach has witnessed the Snoqualmie/North Bend region transform in the past three decades.
“I love this community. When I got here in 1992, it was a bit (economically) depressed. Now we are just a super vibrant, growing and engaging community. The one thing that has been common since throughout my time here has been the families. We have excellent parents who care deeply about kids. That is reflected greatly in our sports programs, and as a teacher and coach in this community I couldn’t be more pleased with our parents,” Kinnune said. “Whether we had 720 kids (Mount Si High School enrollment) and were economically depressed (early 1990s) our parents were still awesome. Now we’re at the point where we are to 1,800 kids and we’re living around golf course and brand new schools and the parents are still awesome. That has been the common thread. It has been great.”
Macko said Kinnune is one of the most well-known members of the community.
“I’ve looked up to him since I was 5 years old. I always wanted to come out here and play for him. Now I get the chance to do it and talk to him every single day. He is a great guy. I would want him to coach me any day,” Macko said of Kinnune.