Heading into the fourth year under head coach Brandis Piper, the Royal Scots continue to build and grow as a program. They had won just one game in 2018, the season prior to Piper’s arrival. In his first season, McKay won two games.
Last season, Piper led the Royal Scots to a 4-6 record and a playoff berth, their first postseason appearance in a decade, and the first three-win season since 2012.
Now, the freshmen from Piper’s first season are seniors, and the coaching staff has seen the culture shift in the program.
“We’ve been working year after year on how do we create those leadership qualities in our players so they can take some ownership and accountability for themselves and the program,” Piper said. “They’re the ones bringing guys to workouts.”
And they haven’t lost much leadership. McKay only graduated six seniors from last year’s team, and they bring back 17 of 22 starters, with a good mix of juniors and seniors.
Two of those juniors will be key to the Royal Scots success, quarterback Kyrin Fuimaono and receiver Justice Anthony. Both are third year varsity players, but their connection goes much further back than the start of high school. The two have been best friends for years, and their years of closeness off the field has led to a special connection on it.
“We can come out onto the field and, I guess, talk to each other on the field without saying anything,” Fuimaono said. “We have a good connection and we know that we can beat other people around the state. When I see a mismatch on a DB I know I can have an easy matchup with Justice.”
Piper credited not only the long standing friendship between his quarterback and receiver for their success, but also their football I.Q. with their understanding of coverages and leverage.
The payoff of their relationship could be seen last season when, as a sophomore, Anthony led the conference with 55 receptions, finding the end zone six times. This season, Anthony has some high hopes, aiming for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns.
But Anthony has some other goals for the season as well.
“We’ve got a lot of respect to earn still,” Anthony said. “A lot of people, they’re kind of sleeping on us, so I think we’re going to earn a lot of respect this season, prove ourselves.”
The success they’ve seen under Piper has made it easier for the Royal Scots. Their numbers have grown, going from 20-30 at workouts the previous two seasons to 60 this year, according to Fuimaono.
Anthony believes that seeing a successful team out there has made it easier for people to come out for the team.
“McKay’s always been talked down on, so I feel it’s harder for people to come out here and play for a team when they’re getting talked down on,” Anthony said. “McKay’s not always known for being successful, but now that we’re showing that push for success, being more successful, a lot of people are going to want to come out here and be part of the program.”
Finally being back full-time in school with a real offseason has been a huge benefit, according to Piper. The players have had access to a newly finished weight room during the summer, and Piper credits it towards the culture shift as well.
One of those players making use of the weight room is lineman Michael Menzie. He was a two-way starter for McKay last season, but Piper said he’s flying under people’s radar.
“He has completely transformed himself in the weight room. He’s a guy that has really bought in,” Piper said. “I’d say he’s the strongest kid in the building now, and has really changed his mentality in how he works. He’s had a phenomenal summer. I think he’s going to be a big surprise to people this season.”
As Piper and the Royal Scots look to continue to build on their success, it won’t be easy this season. Now in the 5A-3 Mid-Willamette Valley Conference, six of the nine teams made the playoffs, including 2021 state champion Silverton.