PORT ANGELES — Players and coaches alike will find out a good amount today, the first day of high school football practice statewide.
As prep football enters what could be a rebuilding year across much of the North Olympic Peninsula, here are some questions area teams must answer before the first week of games on Sept. 2 and 3.
Who takes the reins in Forks?
The Spartans, a Class 2B quarterfinalist in 2021, have to find a new signal caller after the graduation of Logan Olson, a second-team All-Pacific League pick who threw for more than 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Forks will have options in the backfield to take some of the heat off the new QB.
Junior Nate Dahlgren ran for 1,256 yards and scored 17 touchdowns last season at running back and totaled 55 tackles at linebacker. What do you get from the Dahlgrens? Steady production, leadership and improvement, so cracking the 1,500-yard/20-touchdown barrier is attainable this fall.
Sloan Tumaua was a bit of a victory cigar for the Spartans last season as the athletic offensive lineman barreled his way for 223 yards, many of them in the fourth quarter of wins. Forks would use Tumaua to punish tired teams, forcing opponents to find a way to bring down the burly 200-plus pounder.
Walker Wheeler also is in the mix in the backfield for the Spartans.
As for a potential quarterback? Don’t overlook junior Gunner Rogers. Rogers showed a nose for the ball as a sophomore in 2021, leading Forks with 72 tackles defensively and four fumble recoveries. The pitcher, who won an American Legion A State Championship with Wilder Baseball this summer, has been linked to the position.
The Spartans will be a smart bunch on and off the field this fall. Eight all-academic returners from last fall should be back for Forks.
The list includes Dahlgren 4.0; Rogers 4.0; Matthew Wallerstedt 3.9; Kaleb Blanton 3.9; Camryn Kennedy 3.9; Ryan Rancourt 3.8; Jack Delgado 3.75; and Logan Hestand 3.5.
Who carries the ball for Port Angeles?
Replacing do-everything Daniel Cable, the Peninsula Daily News 2021 All-Peninsula Football MVP noted for his running, receiving, returning, occasional halfback passing and skills in the secondary, will be nearly impossible for Port Angeles, but the Roughriders should have some pieces to build around.
Junior Parker Nickerson is in his third year as Port Angeles’ starter, having made strides as a sophomore last fall. He also saw plenty of valuable minutes as a starter for the Riders’ basketball team, frequently playing in close contests. That kind of competitive experience can build upon itself from one sport to the next, so expect Nickerson to make some big plays.
He’ll have a junior center with first-team potential in Cole Johnson and junior Jason Hawes along the line to protect him, and Ezra Townsend returns as a skill position option.
Does East Jefferson rebuild or reload?
A bit of a perfect storm emerged last fall as an experienced group of Chimacum seniors and a veteran crop of Port Townsend seniors combined to win the first league title in any sport as the East Jefferson Rivals.
East Jefferson lost Nisqually League Offensive MVP Logan Massie, the 14 sacks of defensive lineman Jesse Kithcart, the secondary play of Lonnie Kenney and, well, … the list goes on.
The Rivals will return junior quarterback Cash Holmes, first-team All-League tight end/lineman Siamau Ausuega, productive junior Gerald Lindsey who averaged 7.6 tackles per game and contributors senior RB/DB Trevor Wilson and junior Josiah Pennington.
After achieving a state championship game appearance and the best season in Quilcene football history in 2021 (10-2, second overall), what can the Rangers do for an encore?
There are additional Budnek family members (Deakon and Maxx) to soften the blow of losing all-everything running back Bishop Budnek to graduation. Freshman Jayden Love is expected to take over as starting quarterback and will face a difficult schedule right out of the gate.
Quilcene opens with an away game against 2021 state semifinalist Naselle and will host Mossyrock in week two. Additional games with Lummi and Neah Bay also should test the Rangers.