PORT TOWNSEND — A three-year starter returning at quarterback, experienced playmakers at wide receiver and a lineman who can squat 400 pounds head up a sophomore-centered East Jefferson Rivals football team this fall.
East Jefferson may be a year or two away from getting back into contention for the top spots in the Nisqually League standings, but the Port Townsend-Chimacum co-op have plenty of pieces to entertain the Jefferson County faithful in the stands at Memorial Field.
Rivals head coach Tony Haddenham was most impressed with the offseason gains made by his squad’s linemen.
“Our linemen have put in the work all summer,” Haddenham said. “They’ve been committed to our weight room sessions and have been good about putting in workouts. They are ahead of where we were last year at this time.”
That bodes well for third-year quarterback Cash Holmes having the time to target wide receivers such as Gary Zambor, a second-team All-Nisqually League selection at wide out and kick returner last fall.
“Gary with our offense, we’ll need to establish a run game to open up those deep passes to him and the other wide receivers,” Haddenham said. “It’s a matter of being patient and not forcing things. And Gary blocks down field well. He’ll be a difference maker that way and at defensive end.”
Senior Aaron Glanz, a second-team All-Nisqually selection at linebacker last season, will anchor the Rivals defensively and get plenty of carries as the team’s fullback. Glanz also saw time at quarterback last season.
“Aaron is one of our tougher, more athletic guys,” Haddenham said.
Senior Donnie O’Connell also will slot in at a variety of skill positions on both sides of the ball.
“We’ll be able to move him around a bit,” Haddenham said. “He’s got some versatility.”
Sophomore Manaseh Lanphear Ramirez is one of East Jefferson’s best wrestlers and he’ll be counted on to bring some of that tenacity to his spot at tailback and linebacker.
“He’s one of the guys that we will really lean on,” Haddenham said.
“He’s pretty speedy and yeah he definitely brings that wrestler mentality to the football field. We will need that toughness.”
Senior Adam Weaver will miss the first game at Kingston on Friday after illness kept him out of the first week of practice.
“That’s a bummer for us because he’s going to be our starting center,” Haddenham said of the 5-foot-11, 290-pounder.
“He’s one of our strongest guys, a dude who can squat 400 pounds.”
Junior Bryce Harbin (6-1, 220) also will bring good size along the offensive and defensive lines, according to Haddenham.
East Jefferson has a tough early schedule with games against 1A power King’s, an improved South Whidbey and traditional Nisqually League favorite Cascade Christian all in the first month of the season.
East Jefferson Rivals
• Head coach: Tony Haddenham (third season, 8-2, 9-9).
• Last year’s record: (3-2, 3-6) won three straight games midseason, including a win over new rival Klahowya.
• Key Returners: Cash Holmes (QB/DB, Sr.); Aaron Glanz (RB/LB/DB, Sr.); Manaseh Lanphear Ramirez (RB/LB, So.); Gary Zambor (WR/DE, Sr.); Donnie O’Connell (RB/WR/DB, Sr.); Lane Martin (WR/CB, Jr.); Bryce Harbin (OL/DL, Jr.); Adam Weaver (OL/DL, Sr.)
• Newcomers: Silas Morford (QB/WR/DB, Fr.) “He’s a baller who wants to play,” Haddenham said. “He’ll play all over the place for us.”
• Strengths: Skill position players are mostly experienced upperclassmen with a history of making big plays.
• Areas to improve: Cohesion and team unity is of utmost importance, Haddenham said. “There were times last year when we worked together as a team and times that we didn’t. If we consistently can play for each other and remember ‘It’s not about the Me, it’s about the We,’ we can improve and have fun. We are just going to have to continue trying to get the kids to believe in that.”
• Outlook:There will be growing pains early against a difficult slate of opponents, but if the sophomore-heavy Rivals can grow up in a hurry they should be competitive for the stretch run.
• Schedule: Sept. 1: at Kingston, 6:30 p.m.; Sept. 8: King’s, 7 p.m.; Sept. 15: at South Whidbey, 6 p.m.; Sept. 23: at Cascade Christian, 7 p.m.; Sept. 29: Life Christian, 7 p.m.; Oct. 7: at Vashon, 1 p.m.; Oct. 20: at Klahowya, 6:30 p.m.; Oct. 28: Bellevue Christian, 6 p.m.; Nov. 3: Granite Falls, 7 p.m.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at email@example.com.