By any other name, Travis Ward has been in the spotlight of Mt. Spokane football for two straight seasons.
While his name was incorrect in The Spokesman-Review stories a couple of times during his career, his play at quarterback for the Wildcats has always been spot on.
Mt. Spokane (9-1) is in unfamiliar ground, playing at 1 p.m. Saturday at Albi Stadium in its first state football quarterfinal. Ward is one of the leaders of a group of seniors who has anticipated this moment for four years and longer.
“We’ve all played together starting around fifth grade,” he said. “Ever since then, we had the dream of winning the Greater Spokane League as seniors and working our way to the state championship game.”
The first goal was attained when the Wildcats captured their second GSL crown this fall. Getting to Gridiron Classic on Dec. 4 is a tall order. This weekend’s foe, unbeaten Lakes from the Tacoma area, has four state titles under its belt. Although the Lancers have made early exits in their last four appearances, they boast nearly a lineup’s worth of Division I recruits.
But Wildcats players and coach Mike McLaughlin aren’t conceding a thing.
“Some teams have already decided they have had a successful season and everything else is gravy,” McLaughlin said. “We’re happy to be where we are with eight teams left. Now we have a chance to win a state championship and it comes down to which team wants to compete to win this.”
This group of seniors has been winners, garnering freshman and sophomore titles and reaching state last year before losing to East Valley.
Eight members suited up for varsity as sophomores. Standout back Colten Williams, and linemen Ashton Boothroyd and Taylor Smith were thrust into action immediately.
The remainder of this year’s 19 seniors, including Ward, seasoned on the unbeaten junior varsity team before moving up last year.
Ward supplanted standout Connor Haley at quarterback and became only the second junior in school history to be voted a team captain.
“Whenever you have a corps of kids having success, it usually centers around the quarterback, rightly or wrongly,” McLaughlin said. “We needed to get him in and honestly thought Connor would be an impact player at wide receiver, which proved to be true. It made the team better.”
Ex-quarterback McLaughlin would catch himself at practices saying, “Throw it now,” to Ward.
“Invariably, when the word was coming out of my mouth, the ball was coming out of his hand,” McLaughlin said, who added that Ward’s timing was exceptional even as a sophomore.
Ward has several intangibles, McLaughlin said. He’s highly competitive, sees the field and understands the game, coming as he does from a football family. His dad (Mead) and uncle (Shadle Park) both played in Spokane. His uncle, Dave Ward, coached Oak Harbor, Wash., passing through Spokane on his way to a State 4A title and now has Archbishop Murphy in the State 2A quarterfinals.
“I talked to him last night about upcoming games,” Travis said. “He’s helped me out a lot.”
As a junior, Ward threw for more than 1,800 yards (118 for 192, 1,345 yards and 12 TDs in the GSL). His defining moment was a 23-for-27, 315-yard, five-TD game to beat Hanford for a state berth. This year he is 106 for 165 for 1,454 yards and 14 scores, but he’s also become a runner with 405 yards.
“I’ve just tried to show I can make plays and lead the team,” he said.
He and his dad followed Oak Harbor’s state journey in 2006, watching every playoff game.
“Going to the Tacoma Dome and watching them win motivated me,” he said. “It was a great experience and I want us to experience and feel the joy of winning. It doesn’t get any better than that.”