Enumclaw native Keith Ross is the head football coach for the Sumner Spartans, and for the first time ever, he has coached his team to a perfect season.
“It is hard to go undefeated during a whole season,” Ross said. “Many things have to fall into place.”
Ross graduated from Enumclaw High School in 1985 where he played football, basketball and soccer. After graduating from high school, he went on to be a four-year starter and All-American linebacker at Central Washington University.
Before returning to the west side of the mountains to teach and coach, Ross was on the Central football staff as a linebacker coach from 1995-98.
Coaching the Spartans allowed Ross to be on the opposing side of the field to his coaching hero Mike Ernaga, who coached the Hornets before retiring after the 2007-2008 school year.
Ross' influence in the school is unmistakeable and apparent, assistant coach and special education teacher Mark Isaacs said.
"He loves the Sumner Spartan community and his commitment to Sumner High School is substantially noticeable," Isaacs said.
He wanted to be a college coach, but his wife Tracie and he decided it would be better to raise a family if he coached and taught at a high school instead, Ross said.
“Both of my parents were educators and I had some great role models at Enumclaw,” Ross said. “I decided teaching and coaching would be a fantastic career.”
Ross said there is a correlation between teaching and coaching.
“If you can’t teach well, you surely can’t coach well,” he said.
Ross is calm, relaxed and passionate about student learning, assistant coach and Sumner High School counselor David Sandberg said. But when he gets on the football field, Sandberg added, “He is the most intense person I have ever coached with.”
Ross said he has learned a lot about patience from being a special education teacher.
"His enthusiasm as a teacher motivates students to push themselves, reaching success in their classes and prepares them for graduation," Isaacs said.
Sandberg said Ross will not settle for mediocre from his players or from his coaching staff.
Isaacs has worked for Ross' football program for seven years and he said it is a once in a lifetime experience.
“A good coach is a great teacher who takes pride in teaching all the details,” he added.
Ross loves teaches but said walking onto the field after school and seeing “my boys” takes him to another place.
“There is nothing like coaching,” he said.
The atmosphere he tries to provide on the football field for his players and assistant coaches is that of a family. He enjoys working with kids that may be struggling in life and just need some guidance, he said.
"He cares about his athletes after football season is finished," Sandberg said. "He builds relationships with (them) that last a lifetime."
Not only does Ross work with the players on the field but he also cares for them off the field. Isaacs said he focuses on encouraging the players to go from good to great young men.
“His passion and love for the game of football is contagious,” Sandberg said. “He inspires players to reach their maximum potential and then pushes them past it.”
Along with his passion and love for football, Isaacs added that his charismatic presence is also contagious.
The Spartans’ undefeated season continued on Friday, Nov. 15 when they beat W.F. West 28-14.