FORKS — Forks is looking to build back better after the graduation of 12 seniors, six of whom earned first or second all-league honors last spring, and the injury-inflicted loss of another first-teamer on both sides of the ball in 2022 senior Hayden Queen.
Queen is suffering from an issue with his vascular system that caused him to temporarily lose his vision after a summer workout.
“He has a medical issue that will keep him from playing for us this year,” Spartans third-year coach Trevor Highfield said. “He’s the heart and soul of the team, and he’s still with us and coming to practice, and he’s doing an awesome job helping lead us.”
Highfield said Queen’s absence from the playing field provides a chance for his charges to grow.
“For our team and our kids, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow together through hardships,” Highfield said. “You have to go through tough times, and it’s about how you react and the resiliency you show.”
Besides that unfortunate outcome, Highfield said his squad is focused on being together and is ahead of where he thought they would be two days into two-a-day practices this week.
“We had a pretty good summer with improved turnout for our summer practices, and we were in the weight room four days a week. We were able to get in a lot of our install because our numbers were so good,” Highfield said.
“And we started two-a-days Monday, and we are further along in regards to our offensive and defensives schemes, so I am pleasantly pleased with the progress.”
Senior Logan Olson will move over from wide out to quarterback and will continue to play safety defensively, where he earned honorable mention honors last spring.
“He’s a very good all-around athlete,” Highfield said. “But the thing I love the most about Logan is who he is. He’s a very mature young man, very even-keeled, and we are excited to have him as a leader in our backfield because he doesn’t make bad decisions.”
Sophomore Nate Dahlgren started as a freshman and will take over the departed Hayden Baker’s spot at tailback and linebacker.
Dalton Kilmer and Ryan Rancourt provide speed on the outside at wide receiver and defensive back.
And Connor Demorest and Gunner Rogers, “a couple of coaches’ kids,” put in hard work during the offseason and are expected to contribute on both sides of the ball.
A fan favorite from the soccer team also will play football.
“We recruited another senior to come out in Hector Dominguez,” Highfield said. “We are excited about him, and we expect him to be at center for us.”
Connor Earls, a starter at left tackle as a sophomore, is back for his senior year, and Sloan Tuamaua will be at right tackle and nose guard and may earn some carries in the backfield.
“We’d love to be in a position where we are ahead in the fourth quarter and give the ball to Sloan,” Highfield said.
Sebastian Quenneke and Austin Graham also are in the mix along the lines.
Schedule-wise, Forks opens with nonleague games at home against Sequim on Sept. 3 and on the road against 2B power Kalama. The Spartans will play more Pacific League opponents this season after going 3-2 against state powers in a combined Central 2B League last spring.
Highfield believes his young squad’s biggest strength could be its teamwork and sense of togetherness.
“We’ve been focusing on being a good teammate and defining what that is,” Highfield said. “That’s a been a big point of emphasis for us as a coaching staff, a big thing for our community coming off of COVID to build back together.
“So our motto is maximize our opportunities and no excuses,” Highfield said. “We’ve heard through all of this that we don’t have opportunities, but here they are. A culture of kindness is what we want to build here, and we are naming it and saying that’s what we are working toward.
“I told them this morning after practice that I love this team, love the characters we have on it and the good attitudes they share.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] news.com.