Editor’s note: Class 1B football previews for Quilcene, Crescent and Clallam Bay will appear in Tuesday’s print and online editions.
PORT ANGELES — Oft-delayed, reduced in length and operating under strict protocols, the condensed prep football season will kick off this weekend for North Olympic Peninsula teams.
Beyond the peculiar vision of masked players and coaches, attendance at games will be limited to friends, family or none at all with live streams picking up the slack.
An old-fashioned Olympic League was re-imagined to keep nearby teams together and avoid out-of-region travel.
Sequim will join North Kitsap, Central Kitsap, Olympic, South Kitsap and Bainbridge in a football-only North Division. Port Angeles and a combined East Jefferson team composed of Port Townsend and Chimacum players will play in a South Division against Bremerton, Kingston, Klahowya, North Mason, Shelton and a South Kitsap JV team.
No playoff season is planned, but this season is more about reestablishing connections between players and coaches, enjoying the sport and team-building.
Port Angeles Roughriders
Head coach: Brent Wasche (first season).
2019 record: 1-8 (1-5, sixth in Olympic League).
Key returners: Daniel Cable (jr., RB/DB); Jaziel Livingston (jr., RB/DE); Jacob Felton (sr., FB/LB); Treyton Walde (sr., OL/DL); Aaron Edmiston (jr. OL/DL); Robert Fors (sr., OL/DL); Nathan Seelye (jr., OL/DL); Derek Sparks (sr., WR/CB); Brantyn Fisler (jr., RB/S); James Grubbs (jr., WR/CB); Cole Acker (so., QB)
Key newcomers: Kamron Meadows (sr., RB/LB); Jake Jacobsen (sr., OL/DL); Ty Bradow (jr., WR/LB); Cyras Mills (jr., TE/LB); Xavion Mason (jr., OL/DL); Parker Nickerson (fr., QB); Dru Clark (sr., WR/DB).
Outlook: New head coach Brent Wasche has been busy putting his stamp on the program since he took over the position a year ago. Turnout is up to 50 athletes, a rise of about 20 players, and many of those new additions are multi-sport athletes that have had success with other Riders squads.
Port Angeles will employ what Wasche called “essentially a Wing-T-based system” offensively, with junior running backs Daniel Cable and Jaziel Livingston and fullback Jacob Felton getting much of the work in the ground game-based system.
“Daniel can do a lot of things in space,” Wasche said. “Jaziel will surprise the league with what he can do. He’s shown remarkable unselfishness. Last year, he started out as a running back but moved to offensive line and never complained.”
Sophomore Cole Acker and freshman Parker Nickerson are in “a two-way position battle at QB,” Wasche said.
“Cole has demonstrated a lot of leadership through a challenging offseason. Both have a command presence in the huddle even though they are young. Both have shown a good ability to grasp our playbook and able to handle our quick game.”
Felton and newcomer Kamron Meadows will head up the team defensively.
“Jacob was a warrior for us last year,” Wasche said. “Kamron has a really high football IQ and a great balance of size, speed and athleticism.”
Senior Dru Clark, a basketball and tennis player, also is expected to contribute.
“We are excited to see what comes with him,” Wasche said. “He’s a great athlete who has shown lots of leadership in building a great culture with the basketball team.”
Wasche thinks his team will be competitive in the South Division, but laying a framework for growth is the main objective.
“We aren’t going to judge this team by wins and losses but by how much we improved,” he said. “Continue to increase our numbers, increase our performance on the field, our academic performance. We are trying to put the pieces together.”
Head coach: Erik Wiker (17th season, 112-54).
2019 record: 9-2 (5-1, second in Olympic League); qualified for Class 2A state tournament.
Key returning players: Taig Wiker (sr., QB/LB); Caleb Pozernick (sr., OL/DL); Michael Young (sr., WR/DB); Walker Ward (sr., RB); Brandon Barnett (sr., OL/DL); Isaiah Cowan (sr., LB); Garret Hoesel (sr., WR/DB); Truman Nestor (sr., LB); Austin Newton (sr., OL/DL); Mitch Horton (sr., OL/DL).
Key newcomers: Blake Peterson (so., RB/LB); Ricky Jennings (so., FB/LB); Jonas Welch (so., WR/DB).
Outlook: Sequim’s large and experienced senior class, many of whom have been varsity starters since their freshman or sophomores seasons, will power the Wolves during this truncated season.
COVID restrictions have robbed Sequim of a shot at a third-straight Class 2A state tournament berth, but the Wolves should be able to challenge the larger Kitsap schools for a shot at the Olympic League North title.
“Our varsity experience is our strength — their experience running the plays and being on the field,” Sequim coach Erik Wiker said. “With the lack of an organized offseason training program, their experience is crucial.”
Olympic League Offensive MVP and All-Peninsula MVP Taig Wiker returns at quarterback after completing 78 of 143 throws for 1,155 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions while running for an additional 440 yards and 13 scores.
Ward ran for 1,209 yards and nine TDs to earn second-team honors for Sequim in 2019.
Young, a dynamic playmaker at wide receiver and defensive back who was a first-team selection at each position, caught 23 passes for 432 yards and six TDs and ran for 88 yards and two scores.
Hoesel, a second-team pick on offense and defense, led Sequim with 22 receptions for 462 yards and four TDs and had 28 tackles and three interceptions on defense.
Barnett, a second-team choice, and Pozernick will anchor the team’s offensive and defensive lines, with help from Newton, a first-team defense pick, and Horton.
Head coach: Trevor Highfield (second season, 4-5 overall)
2019 record: 4-5 (1-3, fourth in 1A Evergreen League)
Key returners: Hayden Baker (sr., RB/LB); Hayden Queen (jr., WR/LB); Trey Baysinger (sr., OL/DL); Carter Windle (sr., QB/DB); Tyler Ellis (sr., OL/DL); Tony Hernandez-Flores (sr., WR/DB); Logan Olson (jr., WR/DB)
Key newcomers: Nate Dahlgren (fr., RB/LB); Tyler Wood (sr., OL/DL); Colton Duncan (sr., ATH/DB); Sloan Tumaua (fr., OL/DL).
Outlook: Out of the frying pan and into the fire as the Spartans join the SW Class 2B League, home of defending state champion Onalaska, Forks’ first opponent Saturday.
The Spartans return six starters on each side of the ball, with two Haydens, senior Hayden Baker and junior Hayden Queen, leading the way at running back and wide receiver, respectively, on offense and at linebacker defensively.
“Hayden [Baker] is the leader in terms of the emotional aspect of our team,” Highfield said.
“If Hayden [Queen] didn’t turn out, I’m not sure I would be coaching,” he joked.
Linemen Baysinger, Ellis and Derrick Beebe will be joined by senior Wood, a newcomer to the team who will play center.
Windle returns at quarterback and defensive back, and he’ll have receivers like Queen, Olson and Hernandez-Flores as targets.
Freshman Dahlgren, younger brother of Spartans’ standouts Luke and Jack, also has been impressive in early practices.
“I’m excited about the opportunity. It’s neat for us to be moving into a league where we have such high standards and such well-coached, well-prepared teams,” Highfield said.
East Jefferson Football Team
Head coach: Patrick Gaffney (third season, 8-11). 2019 record: Port Townsend went 4-5 (2-3, fifth in Nisqually-Olympic 1A League) in 2019. Chimacum was 2-8 (2-6, sixth in Nisqually-Olympic League) in 2019.
Key returners: Anson Jones (jr., FB/LB); Kyle Caldwell (sr., FB/DL); Chris Fair (jr., OL/DL); Logan Massie (jr., HB/LB); Evan Toner (sr., OL/DL); Toby Fulton (so., LB); Siaumau Auseuga (so., TE/DL); Bjorn Danaan-Devas (sr., WR/DB); Jesse Kithcart (jr., DL).
Key newcomers: Gavin Lawson (sr., QB).
Outlook: The Chimacum and Port Townsend football programs combined this season due to low turnout.
“It’s nice having to make [personnel] decisions,” head coach Patrick Gaffney said. “Last year’s decision [coaching Port Townsend] was, ‘Are we sure we can put this freshman on the field safely?’ And now we don’t have a freshman starting.”
Gaffney said the combination is off to a good start.
“The transition, coming together, it has made us better,” Gaffney said. “The kids are working together, helping each other. We don’t refer to Port Townsend players or Chimacum players, just East Jefferson. We asked the kids to come up with a nickname, but they didn’t really offer anything, so right now we are the East Jefferson Football Team like the (NFL’s) Washington Football Team.”
Lawson, a senior who has played baseball for Chimacum, along with classmate Hunter Cerna and Lonnie Kenney, are in the mix at quarterback.
Jones, a tough-to-tackle running back and a hard-nosed linebacker, may be the team’s top talent.
“Talk about a humble kid,” Gaffney said. “He’s possibly the best player on the team, and you wouldn’t know it by the way he carries himself. He’s going to be a guy that pounds it for us.”
Caldwell, a second-place finisher at the state wrestling tournament last winter, will anchor the team’s defensive line and may see some snaps in the backfield.
Fair is the team’s first selected captain and will play on the offensive and defensive lines.
“Chris is a total standout,” Gaffney said. “We’ve only chosen one captain so far, and he’s the guy. He’s a great leader and helps other kids out constantly.”
Watch for sophomore Auseuga to make some noise.
“He’ll play tight end for us and is 6-foot-1, 220 to 230 pounds,” Gaffney said. “We call him our wide tackle.”
“With the late move to Phase 2 and the snow last week, you can tell we are about six or seven practices behind where we need to be, but the kids are happy to be out doing something again, and the biggest focus is getting kids back on the field and having fun.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] news.com.