“Twilight” may not be the only thing drawing a crowd in Forks this spring.
The Forks Spartans boys soccer team might just prove to be deserving of a little extra attention.
After its first-ever trip to the Class 1A boys soccer state tournament last year, the Spartans shot out of the gates early on this season with a 4-1 start.
From the looks of things, last year’s 9-8 mark — the first winning season in school history — was no fluke.
“We’re getting to a level now where we’re going to be competitive [every year],” said Forks head coach Brian Bowers, who’s been in charge of the program since its inception in 2004. “The program has grown quite a bit.
“We’re getting more kids, and we have more experience on the field to lead some of these younger kids.”
One of those players, however, won’t be Southwest Washington League, Evergreen Division offensive MVP Gibran Molina.
The Spartans’ leading goal scorer left town before the beginning of the school year, taking his 16 goals and 11 assists with him.
Similar offensive outages occurred at the North Olympic Peninsula’s other marquee programs, with Sequim losing its all-time leading scorer (Kai Antrim) to graduation and Port Townsend its top striker (Daniel Berg).
That’s not to say there isn’t some experienced offensive talent coming back.
Port Angeles returned its top offensive player in Tyler Owens, while Sequim’s David LaBeaume moved back to his familiar position at forward and Port Townsend’s Luis Quintana (he of the early season hat trick) proved the Redskins still have some firepower.
Meanwhile, the Chimacum Cowboys are young with eight freshmen, but one of them happens to be Kobi Allbright, who already has a game-winning goal under his belt after netting one against Sequim in an early season nonleague game.
The aforementioned Spartans aren’t hurting too badly either. After all, Molina’s sidekick from last year, sophomore Wilson Avila-Luna (seven goals), isn’t too bad himself.
Here are capsules for each of the Peninsula’s teams:
Port Angeles (3A)
• Head coach: Chris Saari (fifth year).
• Last year: 3-9-1 in Olympic League (seventh), 3-11-2 overall; missed playoffs.
• Returning contributors: Tyler Owens¬ (Sr., F), Noah James (Jr., D), Derek Walrath (Sr., GK), Forrest Epstein (Jr., M/F), Svetlio Hurd (Jr., M), Sam Walder (Sr., M).
• Top newcomers: Maldeep Kang (Jr., M), Josh McFarland (Sr., D), Cole Groff (Jr., D), Tharen Lowell (Jr., D/M).
• Player to watch: Tyler Owens.
The senior captain scored a team-high five goals and dished out three assists as a first-team All-Olympic League player for the Riders last season. He figures to be Port Angeles’ top offensive threat this year as well.
• Outlook: Port Angeles’ future received a boost with 16 incoming freshmen entering the program.
The present could get a whole lot sunnier if the Riders (1-5 overall) can find a way to improve defensively. That may be the key to Port Angeles making its first postseason appearance since 2002.
• Head coach: Dave Brasher (13th year).
• Last year: 6-5-1 in Olympic League (fifth), 7-5-2 overall; missed playoffs.
• Returning contributors: Matt Bedinger (Sr., GK), Eric Huston (Sr., F), Jose Najera (Sr., D) 12, David LaBeaume (Sr., F), Austin Sanford (Jr., D), Zane Carey (Jr., M).
• Top newcomers: Jerry Azanza (Soph., F), Aldo Garcia (Soph., F), Daniel Servin (Jr., F), Jordy Shearer (Jr.), Saul Flores (Soph., M), Evan Watkins (Fr., M).
• Player to watch: David LaBeaume.
The three-year varsity player moves back to forward this year after starring in a defensive role last season.
Standing at 6-foot-3, LaBeaume give Wolves midfielders a big target up front. He should be even more dangerous when he recovers from a bruise on his kicking foot suffered during preseason practice.
• Outlook: The Wolves (3-1) narrowly missed the playoffs for the first time in five years last spring.
The departures of all-time leading scorer Kai Antrim and assist man Jeff Catton will make returning to the postseason a difficult task this year.
“This year’s team will be a working man’s team,” Wolves coach Dave Brasher said. “With no clear-cut superstar, they will have to earn wins with hard work and team play.
“This team should get better all year and if they stay healthy, could be near the top of the 2A group [in the Olympic League].”
Port Townsend (1A)
• Head coach: Patrick Kane (first year).
• Last year: 7-2-3 in Olympic League (fourth), 10-4-4 overall; eliminated in quarterfinals of 2A state tournament.
• Returning contributors: Luis Quintana (Sr., F), Alex Lockwood (Sr., F), Jesse Yourish (Sr., GK), Sam Selisch (Jr., M), Sebastan Lyons (Jr., M), Ethan Berg (Jr., D/GK).
• Top newcomers: Hab Rubio (Soph., D), Louie Gittelman (Soph., D), Seiji Thielk (Soph., D), Austen Lawrence (Jr., M), Matt Kahdahl (Soph., M), Max Gunn (Soph., M), Ryan Crace (Jr., M), Juan Pablo Cornejo Munilla (Sr., D), Chris Shively (Soph., M).
• Player to watch: Jesse Yourish.
Yourish was a first-team All-Olympic league goaltender as a sophomore, but only played about half his junior year due to injury.
Completely healthy this spring, he should give the Redskins a dependable stopper at the net.
• Outlook: The Redskins (2-2) graduated their entire defensive backline from a year ago.
Head coach Patrick Kane is hoping an experienced group of forwards, led by Luis Quintana, should be able to hold down the fort while the defense gains experience.
The Redskins need only avoid finishing last among the Olympic League 2As to qualify for postseason in Class 1A.
If they can make it, the Redskins will have a shot at their fourth state tournament appearance since 2005.
• Head coach: Kevin Coate (second year).
• Last year: 0-8 in 1A Nisqually League (fifth), 0-14 overall; missed playoffs.
• Returning contributors: Nick Hill (D), Spencer Allbright (D), Troy Norman (GK), Keegan Young (M), Perry Pearsall (F), Aidan Stone (F).
• Top newcomer: Kobi Allbright (Fr.).
• Player to watch: Perry Pearsall
Chimacum’s top striker from a year ago (six goals and four assists) leads an inexperienced group
• Outlook: The Cowboys (2-4) already have two more wins than they had all of last season, despite sporting a roster that has nary a senior.
The only expectations Cowboys head coach Kevin Coate has is, “to improve daily [and] always give our best effort.”
If team chemistry continues to improve, Chimacum could have a shot at one of the Nisqually League’s four postseason berths.
• Head coach: Brian Bowers (sixth year).
• Last year: 8-6 in Evergreen Division of SWL (tied for third), 9-8 overall; eliminated in first round of 1A state tournament.
• Returning contributors: Wilson Avila-Luna (Soph., F), Sean Weekes (Sr. M), Eddy Barragan (Sr., D), Carlos Estrada (Sr., D), Victor Armenta (Jr., D).
• Top newcomers: Cristian Molina (Fr., M), Alexis Ayala (Fr., M).
• Player to watch: Wilson Avila-Luna.
Avila-Luna already has a hat trick under his belt this season after scoring 11 goals as a freshman.
• Outlook: Forks was forced to rebuild a little more than it would have liked when Gibran Molina, last year’s Evergreen Division offensive MVP, left a year early.
That hasn’t tempered expectations too much, however, as the Spartans (4-1) still have their eyes on a return trip to the postseason. A fully intact defense should help, even with significant losses in the midfield.
“We are looking for some of the younger guys to step up and fill some big shoes,” Spartans coach Brian Bowers said.
“At this point I believe they have the ability to make it happen as long as they can manage the pressure.”