PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles has talented, capable athletes on its football roster. Figuring out exactly who among that group will block, distribute, run, catch and pursue the football will be the challenge for the Roughriders under second-year head coach Troy Mann.
Mann and Port Angeles went 3-7 in 2018, one loss worse than in 2017, but that seventh defeat came in the district playoffs to an eventual Class 2A state semifinalist in Fife — the school’s first playoff of any kind since making a three-team league tiebreaker in 2014 and a district berth in 2011.
The Riders were improved from 2017 to 2018 and Mann and crew hope to continue those positive forward strides in the Olympic League again this fall.
Mann said preparing for his second season has gone more smoothly than as a rookie head coach.
“Organizationally yes,” Mann said. “We just have to refine philosophies and our coaches have to get better at what we do and that should reflect in the kids’ performances.”
Mann said the team would stick with the pistol formation offensively — an offense that keeps the quarterback in the shotgun letting him see over the line of scrimmage and make reads while positioning a running back further back from the line of scrimmage, allowing for more momentum and burst when that back takes handoffs, pitches or option reads from the quarterback.
“I think we will go off of what we did last year and try to improve on it,” Mann said. The pistol will be our base, but we will show different formations on offense. We plan to change it up a little bit defensively and have a hybrid defense that matches up with what our opponents will show. We want to have enough versatility to be multi-dimensional like that on defense.”
Port Angeles has to replace 16 graduated seniors plus a handful of players, including some All-Olympic League performers from last season, who are not turning out due to lingering injuries or personal decisions.
Positions up for grabs
In early preseason practices, numerous players were in the mix in the offensive backfield — and at different positions than they played last season.
Senior Tyler Bowen, a second-team All-Olympic League pick at wide receiver and defensive back in 2018, is in the running to start at quarterback and safety this time around.
Bowen said he’s prepared to do whatever is needed for the team to win, including taking pistol snaps at quarterback, even if he admits he enjoys playing wide receiver a little bit more.
Bowen also has some big goals for his senior season.
“To beat Sequim and North K[itsap] and make it back to the playoffs,” Bowen said. “I didn’t get to play in the playoff game last year.” Bowen injured his ankle on a 65-yard catch and run in the playoff-clinching win over North Mason.
Sophomore Daniel Cable is working at quarterback and running back and shows no ill effects coming off an ACL tear in his knee last season. Quick and elusive, Cable showed plenty of potential as a freshman before getting hurt.
“He’ll be just fine. We’ve been working with him and his rehab is going really well,” Mann said. “He’s ahead of all the bench marks and I’m sure he’ll be back on the field as strong, if not stronger than last year.”
Freshman Cole Acker also has seen some snaps at quarterback.
Mann said he’s looking for athletic ability, knowledge and decision-making in his signal-caller.
“You have to be an athlete,” Mann said. “Then it’s who can understand it, who is confident in their athletic ability and in running the offense, who makes the best decisions and who wants it.”
Time is now
Sophomore Jaziel Livingston made some big strides in the weight room and looks set to be a ball carrier offensively and a linebacker on defense.
“We are going to be count on Livingston at running back,” Mann said.
Mann said Jacob Felton also was likely to see playing time, either at running back or wide receiver and linebacker.
“He’s a big name for us,” Mann said.
Senior Derek Bowechop is a tall target at wide receiver and will play as an outside linebacker defensively.
“Tyler Bowen and Derek Bowechop, those gentlemen will continue to do what they have been doing for us athletically, even if it might be at different positions,” Mann said.
Senior Lucas Jarnagin, a 6-foot-4 baseball and basketball player who turned out for tennis the last few seasons, listened to his baseball teammate Bowen and assistant coach Casey Dietz beg and plead for him to play football and is out for the team.
Jarnagin turned heads at Friday’s practice with a great catch while playing tight end and with his athleticism, could be a prime candidate at middle linebacker or defensive end.
Lineman candidates include Treyton Walde, Cris Lopez, Aaron Edminston, Javen Waller and Jaymisen Morrison.
“I know we will have a young offensive line, it will be a little lighter but maybe more aggressive than last year’s,” Mann said. “That aggression might make us a little bit stronger on the offensive line. Last year we were bigger and we were dinged up all over the place.”
Mann thinks the Olympic League is up for grabs this season.
Port Angeles Roughriders
• Head Coach: Troy Mann, second year (3-7).
• Last Year: 3-7, fourth in Olympic League 2A Division, lost to Fife in district playoffs.
• Offense: Pistol
• Defense: Multiple
• Contributors: QB/DB Tyler Bowen, sr.; WR/LB Derek Bowechop, sr.; RB/LB Jaziel Livingston, soph.; TE/LB/DE Lucas Jarnagin, sr., RB/DB Daniel Cable, soph.
• Expected team strength: Playmakers at the skill positions, solid starters in the defensive secondary and linebacker.
“Our secondary and skill positions are going to be strong suits for us,” Mann said. “Hopefully, we can take advantage of that this year.”
• Question mark: Size, experience and numbers are not great along the offensive and defensive line. “Our line will be our biggest question,” Mann said.
• Game to watch: Kingston at Port Angeles, Friday, Sept. 20. The Roughriders’ Olympic League opener is likely a must-win if Port Angeles wants to make the playoffs again in 2019.
Sept. 6: Forks, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: at North Thurston (Lacey), 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: Kingston, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 27: at Montesano, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: at Olympic, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 11: at Bremerton, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 18: Sequim, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 25: at North Kitsap, 7 p.m.