It’s that time of year again, folks. Football season is just days away and so is the local media’s near non-stop obsession. And I guess Oly Sports is no different, so let’s kick off this season with some preseason, highly unscientific power rankings. A little preview of the upcoming season for each local team and where they sit in relation to each other. Of course, they aren’t all in the same division or on the same level, but what does that really matter?
1. Tumwater T-Birds
Last season: 12-2 – Lost to Lynden in the 2A state title game
Next game: vs. Shelton – Tumwater Stadium – Friday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: The T-Birds lost their two top players from last season’s 2A second place team – Andrew Brown and Jamie Bryant – but as always, the T-Birds are able to quickly reload. They return quarterback Jayden Croft, tight end Zach Delucco and two important pieces of the wing-T running game, running backs Christian Cummings and Tyrus Snow on offense. On defense, they feature DI recruit Nick Foerstel and senior Korye Trejo on the defensive line. In week one they get a Shelton team that gave them an opening day defeat last year, their only loss of the regular season. Hard to imagine it happening two years in a row especially since Shelton has lost most of their top players from a year ago, including running back Ralph Kinne.
2. Timberline Blazers
Last season: 9-2 – Lost to Marysville-Pilchuck in 1st round of state playoffs
Next game: vs. River Ridge – South Sound Stadium – Friday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: The Blazers return a great deal from a team that made it to the first round of the state playoffs including do-everything Asan Neil-Evergin, who already has an offer from Eastern Washington. Also coming back after his season ended prematurely is junior quarterback Gabe Gutierrez. His sophomore season was eye opening and look for him to continue to excel in Nick Mullen’s pistol offense.
3. North Thurston Rams
Last season: 9-3 – Lost to University in the state quarterfinals
Next game: vs. Steilacoom – South Sound Stadium – Saturday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: Ryan Mets returns to the quarterback position for the Rams and Hayden Maliska will hold down the running back duties this season and play linebacker and the Rams will try to improve upon their run to the state quarterfinals last year. Watch out for 6-6, 320 pound offensive lineman Alex Rice who will be opening up holes for Maliska and Josh Ramirez.
4. Olympia Bears
Last season: 4-7 – Lost to Auburn in crossover game
Next game: @ Lake Oswego – Lake Oswego, Oregon – Friday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: With the Derrick Becker transfer question behind them, the Bears hope to improve upon their tough 4-7 2012 that still saw them make the playoffs thanks to a rather weak 4A Narrows League. With Becker, a two-time all league player at Capital, likely their quarterback, Mitch Fettig at wide receiver and Cedar Frost and Caden Waggoner behind him in the backfield, chances are the Bears will be one of the better offensive teams in the league. And with Fettig and Cooper Murphy on defense, you could see a major turnaround from last season.
5. Capital Cougars
Last season: 10-3 – Lost to Lynden in the state semifinals
Next game: vs. Newport – Ingersoll Stadium – Friday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: Gone are three key offensive cogs to the Cougars success last season – QB Derrick Becker and the single season rushing record holder Kai Van Sickle and lineman Mat Cox. But the Cougars do return two runners that filled in admirably for Van Sickle when needed in juniors Connor Kennedy and Ryan Rieta. Capital lacks experience but it is hard to imagine that JD Johnson’s team will struggle too much this year.
6. Black Hills Wolves
Last season: 4-5 – 5th in 2A EvCo
Next game: @ Clover Park – Harry Lang Stadium, Lakewood – Friday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: The first team in the power rankings with a new head coach is Black Hills. The Wolves let Jack Zilla go and in comes Dominic Yarrington, who has been successful in all of his stops, most recently in West Seattle. He will have an experienced group of linemen that play both ways to lean on and has installed an up-tempo spread offense. Look for a lot of running back Nick Knittle and running back Mitch Stone.
7. River Ridge Hawks
Last season: 5-4 – 4th place in 2A EvCo
Next game: vs. Timberline – South Sound Stadium – Friday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: How do you replace Brad Wallace? That’s what River Ridge will be asking itself all year long in all three of his sports. Chris Leiba sounds like a good option but he is only a sophomore and will be asked to play both running back and defensive back. They will be fast and have a big line, but with only two returning starters on offense, it might be a struggle for the Hawks.
8. Shelton Highclimbers
Last season: 7-3 – Lost to Nathan Hale in the crossover game
Next game: @ Tumwater – Tumwater Stadium – Friday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: The Highclimbers lost one of their best classes of all-time – Ralph Kinne, David Ajamu, Jake Lindley, DeShon Bell, Jared Welander amongst others – but do return a decent group of players on defense including Brian Nault and will have Jake Henry, who looked good in the scrimmage and in mop up duty for Kinne last season, at running back. Jake Beck takes over at quarterback.
9. Tenino Beavers
Last season: 6-4 – Lost to Woodland in crossover game
Next game: vs. Raymond – Beaver Stadium – Friday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: Another team with big losses, the Beavers won’t have offensive juggernauts Devante Harris and Mac Shaw to rely on. To be honest, I don’t know what to expect for Tenino but I expect that they will find a way to reload and will battle with Elma for third place in the league behind powers Hoquiam and Montesano.
10. Yelm Tornadoes
Last season: 5-5 – 5th in 4A Narrows League
Next game: vs. Highline – Yelm Tornadoes Stadium – Friday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: Jason Ronquillo takes over the head coaching duties for the Tornadoes and will have to reteach his team how to play football. The Tornadoes didn’t have a quarterback last season in Randy Swilley’s rugby style offense and will be without their all time leading rusher Jake Swilley. But Ronquillo’s resume turning around Hoquiam does bode well for Yelm. Don’t be surprised if they move up this list quickly.
11. Rochester Warriors
Last season: 2-7 – 6th in 1A Southwest
Next game: @ Ridgefield – Ridgefield Stadium – Friday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: The senior class of Rochester football players are now on their fourth head coach. This year, it’s Eric Snelson. Snelson is a first year head coach but brings a wealth of experience with him from Black Hills including Jack Zilla, Shane Dover and just about any other Wolves coach you can think of. It might be a struggle in Rochester, but if they can keep Snelson in town, the Warriors’ fortunes may be on the rise.
12. Rainier Mountaineers
Last season: 1-8 – 7th in 1A Southwest
Next game: vs. Naselle – Rainier HS – Friday, 7:00 PM
Outlook: The last new head coach is Terry Shaw, who has the unenviable task of trying to right the ship in Rainier. Numbers are up for the Mountaineers and I’d expect an extra win here or there, but as one of the smallest 1A schools in the state, it’s hard to imagine much improvement record-wise, especially in a league that consists of Hoquiam, Montesano, Elma and Tenino.