NEAH BAY — Last season, the Neah Bay Red Devils, coming off the program’s fourth Class 1B state football championship in six seasons, had a rare down year as the team was ravaged by an astonishing number of injuries.
The Red Devils managed to limp to a 5-6 record despite the injury woes. They even made an appearance in the postseason and won a playoff game, using a variety of second- and third-stringers at various positions.
“We lost our entire backfield at one point. We were down to our fourth quarterback,” said incoming coach TJ Greene, last year’s defensive coordinator.
The Red Devils enter this year with some big changes to the league and with the optimism that their luck is sure to be better than last year. And most of those second- and third-stringers who got serious playing time last year are back.
The Northwest Football League has been transformed. Neah Bay has been moved into essentially a “Big B” division, otherwise known as the North Division. This will feature longtime Red Devils’ rival Lummi, Naselle (yes, Naselle near Astoria, Ore., is in the North Division) and Darrington, a Class 2B team that Neah Bay hasn’t played much.
The Red Devils also have a new head coach in Greene, who takes over for Tony McCaulley, who retired after guiding the Red Devils to four state championships and five trips to the state championship game since 2011.
No major changes
While the coaching change might seem like a big deal at first, there is a lot of continuity with Greene at the helm. Greene was right there with McCaulley as the defensive coordinator for Neah Bay in all of those championship years and has been at Neah Bay since 2010. Adam Campbell will take over as the Red Devils’ new defensive coordinator.
“We won’t be changing a whole lot. Some of the terminology might be different,” said Greene. The Red Devils will use their usual I-set base formation on offense.
The Red Devils’ schedule may be tougher than in past years. They will play Naselle, Lummi and Darrington twice home and away, with nonleague games against Taholah and Quilcene.
Neah Bay starts the season Sept. 1 with a nonleague game against Morton/White Pass on the road. This will be an unusual game in which Neah Bay gets to play with eight men on offense, but Morton/White Pass will play with 11 men on offense (with the Red Devils switching to 11 men on defense).
This game is just one of several important tests coming up for the Red Devils. Greene said Neah Bay is already looking at a Sept. 21 game against powerhouse Lummi, a tough rival of Neah Bay’s that the Red Devils manage to meet in the postseason virtually every year.
“We’ve had a history of battling them. That early matchup will be a gauge,” Greene said.
Greene said the Red Devils’ goal going into the season is simple. Win a state championship. With four state titles since 2011, Neah Bay has set a high standard.
“The goal is always a state title,” Greene said. He said that while the team will miss McCaulley’s dynamic, the Red Devils have his son, Tyler McCaulley, serving as an assistant coach.
Greene said 25 to 30 kids have come out for practice. The team returns a bunch of players who barely played last year due to injury. The Red Devils are senior-rich with eight seniors.
Billy Parkin III is one of those several seniors. Greene said Parkin, an offensive lineman and linebacker, “really came on late last season. He brings a lot of senior leadership and is a hard-nosed kid.”
Greene also said the Red Devils have a solid core of linebackers in Colton Cummins, Alan Tyler and Parkin.
Greene also likes the size of Curtis LaChester-Perete, another senior and O’Shea Wachendorf on the offensive and defensive lines. LaChester-Perete is listed at 295 pounds, while Wachendorf is listed at 320.
“Curtis LaChester is looking really good. He came in to camp in really good shape. He’s got a low center of gravity,” Greene said.
“O’Shea has come a long way. His upper body strength is almost unreal. The defensive front will be a force.”
Greene expects Josey Tyree, another player who battled injuries last year, to start at quarterback.
“The quarterback is a key position. We’re concerned about keeping [Tyree] healthy.”
Other valuable contributors on offense will be Meric Soeneke, still a sophomore, who showed flashes last year as a rusher, receiver and quarterback before he was lost for the year with a broken ankle. Jay Brunk is also expected to contribute a lot from the receiver position and Logan Halttunen, a player who missed time last year, comes back as a running back and linebacker.
Greene is also excited by newcomer Keith Johnson. He’s a senior, but hasn’t played football for the Red Devils before. He said there’s a few different positions Johnson could play, including end.
“We’re learning about him as much as he’s learning the game,” Greene said.
• Head Coach: TJ Greene, first year.
• Last Year: 5-6, won North Olympic League. Lost to Naselle in second round of district playoffs.
• Contributors: Josey Tyree, QB; Meric Soeneke, RB, WR; Jay Brunk, WR; Alan Tyler, FB, LB; Logan Halttunene, RB/LB; Billy Parkin III, LB; Curtis LaChester-Perete, OL, DL; O’Shea Wachendorf, OL, DL.
• Expected team strength: Eight seniors, depth, huge front line, experienced linebackers.
• Question mark: Staying healthy; new, tougher league.
• Game to watch: Lummi at Neah Bay on Friday, Sept. 21.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]