PORT ANGELES — Incoming head coach Troy Mann certainly doesn’t lack for enthusiasm about this year’s edition of the Port Angeles Roughriders.
Mann said more than 50 kids, including 21 varsity returners, have turned out for the Roughriders, who are coming off a 3-6 2017 season after going 0-9 the year before.
Mann fully expects the Riders to make an even bigger leap this year.
“If we don’t make the playoffs, I’ll be disappointed. I really, truly believe this team is something special,” Mann said. “It’s pretty fun to watch over 50 kids starting to believe in themselves.”
“We’re having great practices. We’re having really intense effort levels that are beyond what I’ve seen before,” Mann said.
“We have a lot of talent on the team this year. The question is how do we get the ball to all of our playmakers.”
Mann said the first day of practice, his dedicated players had the formations down pat and on the second day, they were running the plays correctly.
“We’ve been on cloud nine ever since,” he said.
Mann is not only excited about the veterans returning, but the newcomers and JV kids coming up from a junior varsity team that went 5-2.
One of the biggest returners this year is all-everything Garrett Edwards, a big, tall and exceptionally athletic force on offense, defense and in the return game. Edwards is listed as a wide receiver, but Mann said he’s so talented, the Riders are going to move him all over the field, much like former Stanford star Christian McCaffery, just to figure out creative ways to get the ball in his hands.
“You can’t not give that guy the ball,” Mann said of Edwards.
Mann also said Tyler Bowen “is a stud” and will be a force at wide receiver and defensive back. Also returning is Trevor Shumway at running back and 6-foot-2, 210-pound Anton Kathol at tight end. Mann referred to Kathol as a “man child.”
Mann also expects Austin Leis to make waves at tailback. He said he played junior varsity last year only because of transfer rules.
“He would’ve been a starter last year. He’s powerful when he lowers that shoulder,” he said.
Daniel Cable is another newcomer at running back and safety that will get attention. He’s just a freshman, but he’s part of a big group of freshmen that Mann expects to contribute to the team this year.
“Our freshman class is pretty impressive,” he said.
Tee-Jay Johnson, a huge kid, is also back on the defensive and offensive line. “He’s going to hold the center of our defense,” Mann said. He said Darrell Duckett Jr. is also going to be be a force on the offensive line at 6-foot-2 and 310 pounds.
Hollund Bailey, a soccer player in spring, has also come out for football and Mann expects he’ll contribute. “That guy is so quick,” he said.
Another newcomer to keep an eye on is Joe Davis, a linebacker making a dramatic change in sports.
“He got so much better in the offseason. He’s a skateboarder. I think he’s going to turn heads.”
Quarterback is not 100 percent set. Chris Guttormsen started a few games last year before an ankle injury. Mann said Brendan Rolson-Hines has also looked strong. Also on the quarterback depth chart is Nate Drake.
“That position will never closed. It’s a toss-up right now with Brendan and Chris fighting for the starting job,” Mann said.
Mann said the emphasis for the Riders will be to run the ball and set up the passing game.
“Ultimately, you want to run the ball to open up the pass. Every coaches’ dream is to be a two-dimensional team,” Mann said.
Mann said the Riders are not going to be a huge team and will use a 3-5-3 defense much of the time, taking advantage of their quick linebackers.
“You have to develop your defense around your players,” Mann said.
Though Mann is new as the head coach, he was an assistant last year, so the program is maintaining continuity. Mann is also excited about the coaching staff this season, which included former Husky and former NFLer (and a member of the new Port Angeles High School Athletic Hall of Fame.) Scott Jones, who will help coach the offensive line.
“We have the best coaches in the area. You couldn’t ask for a better support staff,” Mann said. “[Jones] has so much knowledge… and the simplicity of how he explains the offensive line” has been a big plus.
Mann said the staff this year all communicates great and shares ideas and input amongst themselves. In past years, the assistants tended to focus on their specific roles on the staff and he felt there was not as good communication as this year.
Mann expects North Kitsap to be the team to beat again this year in the Olympic League 2A Division, but he thinks the league will have a “big four” of tough teams — North Kitsap, Bremerton, Olympic and Sequim.
“All the teams are beatable. Those are the teams we’re after. You have to beat those guys,” Mann said. “It will come down to disciplined football. If we play disciplined football, we’ll be in every game.”
The Riders begin their season Aug. 31 on the road against Forks. Mann said he is also really looking forward to an early-season home game on Sept. 21 against a 1A power, Montesano.
“I want to see how we handle ourselves against Montesano,” he said. After that game come some crucial games against those “Big Four” powers of the Olympic League 2A Division — Olympic, Bremerton, North Kitsap and Sequim.
Port Angeles Roughriders
• Head Coach: Troy Mann, first year
• Last Year: 3-6, fifth in Olympic League 2A Division
• Offense: Pistol
• Defense: 3-5-3
• Contributors: Garrett Edwards, WR, DB; Tyler Bowen, WR, DB; Anton Kathol, TE/DL; Teejay Johnson, OL/DL; Chris Guttormsen, QB; Brendan Rolson-Hines, QB.
• Expected team strength: Edwards and other playmakers; linebackers
• Question mark: Smallish front lines, always-tough Olympic League 2A Division
• Game to watch: Port Angeles at Forks, Friday, Aug. 31