PORT ANGELES — Talent, experience and maybe most importantly consistency in the coaching staff heads up the Port Angeles 2023 football team under third-year head coach Dustin Clark.
The Roughriders didn’t sustain serious graduation losses and return a number of All-Olympic League caliber-athletes this season, including fourth-year starting quarterback Parker Nickerson, plus returning Peninsula Daily News all-Peninsula football MVP Jason Hawes, a mainstay in the middle of the Port Angeles defense and a hard-charging running back offensively.
Add in running back/linebacker returners in seniors Kason Albaugh and Landyn Jones and some motivated linemen on both sides of the football and the Riders should find themselves in the thick of the Olympic League playoff chase.
“Most of them have been starting for a couple of years now, they understand where they are at,” Clark said. “We are a senior-heavy team, so a little bit of pressure is good for them.
“But I’m feeling good. Right now we are at that point where we have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t, and all the coaches are a lot more comfortable not having to figure it out as we go.”
Hawes is drawing recruiting attention from schools such as NCAA Division II Central Washington.
“As far as work ethic off the field and on, he’s about as good as it gets,” Clark said. “He’s a stud and will lead our defense in the middle there and he can do a little bit of everything there and make some plays for us offensively in a number of ways.”
Nickerson is back after injury knocked him out of several contests last fall.
“His leadership abilities have grown. He continues to have a great understanding of the offense and he worked on his throwing mechanics and understanding reads a lot better,” Clark said. “We just have to keep him healthy.”
Albaugh spent more time in the weight room to improve.
“He’s going to be our starting running back, he’s gotten stronger and faster and the biggest thing for him was getting faster,” Clark said. “But we know he’ll fight for three to five yards every carry.”
Nickerson will have a first-team all-Olympic League wideout to target with the football in junior Blake Sohlberg.
“Blake’s not a real vocal guy, he’s just an athlete who puts in a lot of hard work,” Clark said. “He’s going to be good.”
Junior Kaden Point also will play a bigger role on both sides of the ball after fairing well at X receiver last season.
Port Angeles prepped for the season by sending 60-plus kids to a multi-team Redmond, Ore., football camp put on by former Port Angeles head coach Brent Wasche.
“Our defense was really good at camp,” Clark said. “The offense took a day, but it came along well on day two and three. There were eight other schools there. We got to scrimmage against six of them — bigger, smaller and the same size. We took 64 kids.”
Second-team All-Olympic League offensive linemen Conner Martin (6-foot-3, 270-pounds) and Tanner Flores (6-1, 228) return to anchor the line along with Trevor Martin (6-4, 221) while other big guys Tucker Rygaard and Easton Merritt also should see time along the lines.