Are You Ready for Some Football?
By Matt Baide
The smell of football pads, it’s gross, I wouldn’t recommend it. But when you smell it, it makes you happy, because that means football season is right around the corner.
Prep football practice starts next week, and while I love the summer, I am really excited for the upcoming prep sports season.
The prep sports season officially kicks off on Aug. 31 (other than some jamboree) with the opening weekend of football.
What are some of the big storylines heading into the football season? You should check out The Chronicle’s prep football tab coming out at the end of August. But until then, here’s a brief preview of each classification in the area.
It feels like the Evergreen 2A Conference is a little more open this year than in the last two years I’ve been covering the league. Sure, Tumwater will probably reload as they always do and be a top team in the league. Black Hills finished third in the conference last season and should be in the top 3 once again, and Aberdeen has lost it’s (Kylan) Touch. OK, I don’t know if that’s true, I just wanted to use that reference, but it will be interesting to see how they replace their do-it-all player.
When it comes to local teams, the team I see with the biggest improvement this season is Rochester. The Warriors return a senior quarterback in Bryce Lollar and Lollar’s favorite target in wide receiver Patrick Riley. They didn’t win a conference game last season, but I could see them hovering around the .500 mark this season.
Centralia has a lot of shoes to fill. Workhorse running back Jose Pineda graduated along with Dylan Purkey and quarterback Kolby Baird as well. Head coach Jeremy Thibault will no doubt have some players fill in those roles and try to improve the Tiger’s 1-4 record in the EvCo last season, barely missing the crossover round after falling to Aberdeen in the final game of the regular season.
W.F. West is a mystery at this point, although they are generally a team that competes for an EvCo title. Bob Wollan retired without telling EvCo offensive MVP Nole Wollan and Dan Hill is now the head coach for the Bearcats. Ka’imi Henry, Dakota Hawkins, Tyson Guerrero, Camden Bull, Jack Mallonee and Brandon White are all gone. It appears that Josiah Johnson is in line to take over the starting quarterback job and Jaiyden Camoza emerged as a solid running back last season and it would shock me if LeAndre Gaines wasn’t more involved in the offense this season. It is a tough schedule as well for the Bearcats, hosting River Ridge in the opener, a team that eliminated W.F. West in the opening round of the 2016 2A State football tournament.
The Beavers will be looking to put the black top to good use this season. They will have some spots to fill with quarterback Miles Cannon and wide receiver Guy Murrilo graduating from the program. Tenino starts the season by traveling over I-5 to face Rochester and gets to play Montesano in the final home game of the regular season. After a 1-7 season and a winless league record, the Beavers should be able to improve and make some noise in the Evergreen 1A League.
Well, well, well, this is the most interesting of the classifications. Not because there are the most teams, but because of the turnover from last season and how much that will impact this season.
The Mountain Division, arguably the toughest (and I would argue it is the toughest) will be another battle to see who can claim the league title. Napavine made it to the state semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Kalama, and while the Tigers lost some big players including Noah Lantz, Jordan Purvis, Cole Van Wyck and Garret Shannon, quarterback Dawson Stanley will return for his senior season while the rest of the team learns how to block and tackle.
The team I have my eye on this season is Adna. The Pirates have a quality core of speed guys including Brady Collins, Cole and Chance Fay and Elmer Loose. Conner Weed graduated and left a hole at quarterback, but I believe KC Johnson has someone waiting in the wings for this season. The Pirates have come close in recent years in big games and I could see them getting over the hump this season.
If you’re talking about running the football, you have to mention the Onalaska Loggers. The triple option run by Mazen Saade’s team will be heavily influenced by junior running back Ashton Haight, who was also a member of The Chronicle’s All-Area Football team last year (people forget that).
The Timberwolves are no slouches either, returning quarterback Kaleb Rashoff and running back’s Gavyn Higdon and Dylan Pelletier. Morton-White Pass did lose lineman Carson Lewis as well as wide receiver Matt Poquette, but the experience returning should give the Timberwolves a solid group to work with.
The argument over the best division is between the Mountain and the River Division. The defending state champion Kalama Chinooks will try to repeat as champs, although a lot of seniors departed from last year’s championship team.
Toledo will try to get back to the state playoffs once again. Gannon Madill, Keyton Wallace and Junior Arroyo have all moved on, but it’s not a complete reload. Two of the three headed monster at running back return in Colby Cherrington and Ethan Buck, and it appears Bryce Marcil will take over at quarterback.
Winlock won two games last season and hopes to improve on last season but it won’t be easy, as running back Seth Lindsey is gone as well as Dawson Hall and quarterback Nicholas Patching. The Cardinals defeated Chief Leschi last season but don’t face the Warriors this season.
The other win for Winlock last season was against Mossyrock. The Vikings were winless last season and have a new coach in Chris Fried following one season under coach Irvin Stevenson. The season will be a rebuild for the Vikings as Fried tries to establish an identity with the program in his first season at the helm.
In the Coastal Division, Pe Ell-Willapa Valley will try to win the division crown for the third straight season. The Titans lost Ryan Shepherd, Tyson Nissell and Bradley Prestegord among others, but has quarterback Matt Pearson returning as well as running backs Max Smith and Peter Hamilton. I expect the Titans will be the favorite once again to win the division.
What are your predictions and outlooks for football teams throughout the area? Tweet at me some of you thoughts and predictions, and stay tuned next week for the first episode of Let’s Take About It for the 2018-19 prep sports season.