QUILCENE — Football is flourishing in Quilcene. Continuity is a big reason why the Rangers have racked up an impressive 30-10 record over the past four seasons and four Class 1B district playoff berths, including an 8-1 mark and a Sea-Tac League title in 2017.
Consistency is found in the coaching staff where the trio of Trey Beathard, Byron Wilson and Everette Hunter are heading into their fifth season together on the sidelines.
Beathard is in his third year as head coach of the team after swapping coaching spots with Wilson, his former high school offensive line coach 40 years ago in Alaska, prior to the 2016 season.
The trio provide a supportive, encouraging environment for players to grown into well-rounded people on and off the field.
A recent example came during the first days of football practice last week.
Beathard gave the all clear for senior guard/defensive end/linebacker Garon Terry to miss early season practice time to attend the Seattle Theatre Group’s Dance This Camp, part of Centrum’s offerings at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend.
“He likes to do performing arts, yeah, he’s a bit of a Renaissance man,” Beathard said. “I don’t want to make a kid choose, I want my kids to be well-rounded and be able to pursue a little bit of everything, to be honest. We had a performing arts teacher here [Ginger Moore] who really got the kids fired up and we had a lot of our players involved.”
When Terry rejoins his teammates, a group Beathard hopes to grow to around 30 players, he’ll come back to a squad that put in a solid offseason of training.
“We had our weight room open and we had a pretty good group of kids that were pretty dedicated to lifting three days a week,” Beathard said.
“We went to the Entiat team camp and I think and hope that will help us some. We had the best team there, there weren’t exactly powerhouses there, but we played really well against Entiat, Wellpinit, Seattle Lutheran and Bridgeport. Seattle Lutheran was the only team that was close to us.”
Minus quarterback/defensive back Andy Johnston last year and some lineman starters to graduation, the bulk of Quilcene’s successful 2017 team returns, including All-Sea-Tac League honorees Olin Reynolds (RB/LB) and Robert Comstock (TE/OL/DE).
Reynolds, a hard-charging, tough to tackle runner, led the team in yardage last season.
“I would expect him to lead us again,” Beathard said.
“He’s worked at in the weight room and his speed has increased in the past year or so. He’s been able to knock four 10ths [of a second] off his 40[-yard dash time]. “He’s got good hands, catches it well, runs well and is hard to bring down in space.”
Comstock is a 6-foot-4 target who will block and run routes at tight end for the Rangers.
“I think Eastern [Oregon] and Western Oregon [universities] are interested in those guys,” Beathard said.
“Byron took Olin and Robert and Chase Newman to football camp at Western Washington and they all did well at camp.”
Junior Holdem Elkins will get the call at quarterback. Elkins started the first four games of last season at QB for Quilcene while Johnston recovered from a broken wrist.
“I wish I had the same problem as him,” Beathard joked. “He’s really thin, but he works hard and lifts hard.”
But the Rangers won’t require Elkins to tuck the football and run quite as much as they did with Johnston.
“No, we won’t ask him to do that,” Beathard said. “We had one game last year where we were trying to run out of shotgun and had bad snaps all game. A couple of times Andy would get the ball, run around avoid five people and score a 40-yard TD.
“And Holdem is not that type of player. But he’s real smart, makes good decisions, doesn’t make many mistakes and is an accurate thrower.”
Beathard said a camp opponent gave Elkins a bit of a back-handed compliment this summer.
“He told us, ‘I can’t believe a kid with arms that skinny can throw the ball that far,’ ” Beathard said. “I’m still not sure if he meant it as a compliment or an insult.”
Quilcene will have to wait for senior running back/defensive back Ben Bruner. Bruner underwent hip surgery in the spring and has yet to be cleared to return to football.
“Ben seems to be recovering well but he’s not been released to practice yet,” Beathard said. “He’s been rehabbing, working at recovering. He’s the shiftiest kid we’ve had since I’ve been here in terms of quickness and moves. He’s very athletic, a super good baseball player and can catch and run. We are looking forward to getting him back, but we don’t know exactly when that will be.”
Beathard has three Budnek brothers on the team, sophomore center Zach, freshman Bishop (FB/DB) and eighth-grader Deakon (OL/DL).
“Zach is a sophomore but will be a third-year starter on our line and will play nose guard [defensively],” Beathard said. “He works harder in the weight room than any kid I’ve seen. When he was in seventh grade he came in around 5-foot-10, 238 pounds and now he’s around 6-2, 215. He’s been working.”
Deakon Budnek will likely play at center on offense. Junior Kristian Mack is back after starting at guard and making the all-league team at defensive end.
Senior Dustin Hughes started at linebacker in 2017 and Beathard said he showed a lot of improvement over the course of the season.
Beathard said the Sea-Tac League was young last season and the Rangers lost the most players (four) of any team in the league.
Quilcene fell to league foe Tacoma Baptist 54-38 in the Quad-District playoffs last year, and Beathard said the Crusaders only graduated two seniors.
“Their QB was an outstanding player, but everybody else is coming back, including the kid that was super athletic that missed last year. They will be tough. Rainier has everybody back and I just feel like the league will be improved.”
Quilcene added Neah Bay to its schedule this season in an effort Beathard said is all about playing the toughest schedule possible.
“Over the last few years, the best sports program in 1B football has been Neah Bay. So I asked our athletic director [Mark Thompson] to see if we could play Neah Bay because we want to play a team that is really good and can help prep us for the playoffs.”
Beathard said his team hasn’t entered the playoffs playing its best football due to some scheduling quirks.
“The way our schedule has gone the last few seasons we play Tacoma and Rainier in our first two league games then played really young teams down the stretch,” Beathard said.
“I don’t feel like we were peaking toward the end of the year like we should have been. We took out our starters at the end of the first quarter or in the second in a lot of games and didn’t get much playing time and I think it hurt us.
“So we want to play some people that are really good and we can improve our performances later in the season and the playoffs.”
• Last Year: 8-1 overall, 5-0 Sea-Tac League. Sea-Tac League champions. Lost to Tacoma Baptist in Quad-District playoffs.
• Offense: Power run
• Defense: 3-4-1
• Contributors: RB/LB Olin Reynolds; TE/OL/DE Robert Comstock III; QB/DB Holdem Elkins; OL/DE Zach Budnek; Kristian Mack OL/DL; RB/DB Ben Bruner
• Expected team strength: Reynolds is a bell cow at running back, Comstock is a tall target at wideout and Elkins got some starting experience at QB last season.
• Question mark: Rangers have some inexperience along the lines.