1. Timberline (7-4)
2. Capital (12-1)
3. Lincoln (5-5)
4. Wilson (3-7)
5. Yelm (2-8)
6. Foss (0-10)
*2010 season records
Once again, Capital and Timberline are the teams to beat. Capital cruised through the league in 2010, winning every conference game by at least 31 points. The Cougars suffered some losses to graduation, though, and Timberline, aiming for its fourth straight trip to the state playoffs, is poised to reclaim its spot atop the league. Capital and Timberline seem safe to grab two of the league’s postseason berths, but the third is up for grabs – any of the other four teams could make a run at it.
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Yelm running back Jacob Swilley may look small – he’s 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds – but he’s one of the strongest players on the field. Swilley, a first-team all-league pick in 2010 after rushing for 1,022 yards and 13 TDs, can bench-press 300 pounds and squat 425. Swilley makes an impact on defense, too. He tallied 65 tackles and 12 pass-deflections last season as a cornerback.
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Brandon Wetzel didn’t crack Timberline’s starting lineup until halfway through the 2010 season. Once he did, Wetzel excelled, earning first-team all-league honors as a sophomore middle linebacker. In half a season, Wetzel totaled 65 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and two sacks. With a full season ahead of him, Wetzel could put up monster numbers.
Linwood Kirkland will make an immediate impression along the offensive and defensive lines for Foss. The 6-foot, 320-pound senior transfer from Florida is explosive and strong, said Falcons coach Ken Baker. Kirkland will make a mess of the middle of the line of scrimmage from his noseguard position.
DID YOU KNOW?
Capital leads Narrows League 3A schools with three appearances in state championship games. The Cougars claimed 3A titles in 1996 and 1998 and played for the 4A crown in 2002. Foss and Wilson are the only other schools to reach the finals. The Falcons won the 4A title in 1975 and the Rams were runner-up in 4A in 1998.
GAME OF THE YEAR
Timberline at Capital, 7 p.m. Oct. 21
It’s a good bet that the winner of this game will go on to claim the league title.
Head coach: J.D. Johnson, fifth season
Top players: OG/DE Jordan Randall, Sr., 6-0, 235; OT/DE Matt Cox, Jr., 6-5, 225; OC/NT Tevyn Stevenson, Jr., 6-1, 255; TE/DE Baylor Hahn, Jr., 6-3, 240; WR/SS Darius Antalan, Sr., 6-2, 215; LB/FB Nathan Hull, Jr., 5-11, 220; WR/DB Derek Chase, Jr., 5-10, 180.
Outlook: There is life beyond Tyler Sundberg, Capital’s graduated running back who was voted Class 3A’s MVP in 2010. Capital graduated a good portion of its starters, but has a handful back with starting experience, including junior RB Kai VanSickle, who started in place of Sundberg in the state semifinal game against Kamiakin. Capital will be a little light in overall numbers – Johnson said he expects to carry about 36 players on varsity. Like last season, Capital will be tested by the time it begins league play on Sept. 30 against Yelm – the Cougars have non-conference games against 3A No. 3 O’Dea, 4A No. 7 Olympia, 3A No. 2 Lakes and Enumclaw.
Coach: Ken Baker, sixth season
Top players: RB/LB Marcos Jones, Sr., 6-1, 203; WR/KR Darius Byrd, Sr., 5-9, 160; OL/NG Linwood Kirkland, Sr., 6-0, 320; CB Theo Hall III, Sr., 5-7, 155; OT/DT Joey Nelson, Sr., 6-2, 250; K Zach Medina, Sr., 5-6 ,150;
Outlook: The biggest obstacle facing Foss is its small roster. By the third day of practice, Baker said only 27 players had turned out for the team. At least three returning starters transferred to other schools, worried about the future of Foss. Baker wishes the team had more depth, but he likes the players he has. Jones was a first-team all-league selection at linebacker and will be the heart of that unit. Byrd, an honorable mention pick at receiver, is dangerous kick returner. Medina, the younger brother of former all-state Foss kicker Andrew Medina, is an exceptional kicker.
Head coach: Michael Merrill, third season
Top players: DE Tim Ah-Hee, Sr., 6-3, 270; DT Jimmy Cheng, Sr., 6-0, 265; DB/RB Julius Colwash, Sr., 5-9. 170; TE Javontay Conroy, Sr., 6-0, 250; OL/DT Quincy Gray, Sr., 6-0, 300; RB/LB Keenan Grayson, Sr., 6-0, 200; QB/DB Richard Johnson, Sr., 5-9, 170; RB/KB Emmanuel Thompkins, Sr., 6-1, 210; C/DT Tanielu Lotovaivai, Sr., 6-0. 270; RB/LB Jonathon Hardnett, Jr., 5-8, 175.
Outlook: Starting the third season with Merrill guiding the program, Lincoln could begin to make strides. The Abes must overcome losing the bulk of their linemen from last year and often times the only cure for that is game experience. Thompkins, a second-team all-league pick in 2010, provides a veteran presence in the backfield. Johnson earned second-team all-league honors at defensive back last fall. Lincoln finished 2010 with a nothing-to-be-ashamed-about 5-5 record, but missed the playoffs because it lost to Wilson. Expect the Abes to remember that when they host the Rams on Oct. 7.
Head coach: Nick Mullen, fifth season
Top players: QB/DB James Segura-Mitchell, Sr., 5-10, 175; WR/DB Jordan Thomopson, Sr., 6-2, 190; OL Elliott Orcutt, Sr., 6-1, 225; OL Daniel Bowman, Sr., 5-8, 250; OL/LB Zach Porche, Sr., 5-10, 195; RB/FS Spencer Crump, Jr., 5-10, 190; OL/DL Cole Steven, Soph., 6-2, 280; OL Ethan Metzger, Jr., 6-0, 205; DE Sebastian Mikaele, Jr., 6-3, 230; RB/DB Mitch Cone, Jr., 5-8, 180; MLB Brandon Wetzel, Jr., 6-0, 205.
Outlook: Watch out for Timberline over the next couple seasons; the Blazers are loaded with experienced underclassmen. Segura-Mitchell moves from receiver to quarterback and he’ll have Crump, a first-team all-league running back, as a safety valve in the backfield. With eight offensive starters returning, Timberline should be able to put up points in a hurry and its seven defensive returners will keep opponents from gaining much ground. First-team all-league picks Wetzel and Thompson will anchor the defense. Mullen said his offensive line is the most experienced he’s had since he arrived at Timberline.
Head coach: Don Clegg, 24th season
Top players: DB/WR Jordan Rocco, Sr., 6-0, 170; OT/DT Jacob Minch, Sr., 6-2, 260; QB/DB Moses Lewis, Jr., 6-0, 185; LB/OL Jake Ferris, Jr., 6-0, 200; RB/LB Gaige Pottinger, 5-11, 190; WR/LB James Sivonen, Jr., 6-0, 190; OL/DL Kris Dailey, Sr., 6-0, 240; RB/LB Devon Phillips, Jr., 6-1, 185; RB/LB Adonis Fletcher, Jr., 5-11, 180.
Outlook: The Rams may experience growing pains early. Wilson is light on experience, returning just three offensive and five defensive starters. Clegg believes the team’s biggest strength is its speed, while the Rams will have to work at building depth to remain competitive. Wilson reached the postseason in 2010 for the second year in a row, grabbing the league’s final playoff berth, but stumbled to Ferndale, 48-22. Lewis takes over at quarterback, replacing all-league performer Tre James.
Coach: Randy Swilley, fourth season
Top players: RB/DB Jacob Swilley, Jr., 5-10, 180; TE/LB Chris Fazzino, Sr., 6-2, 210; QB/LB Kyle Brownell, Jr., 5-10, 170; OL Lance Rohwedder, Sr., 6-2, 295; OL Tyler Wallace, Sr., 6-2, 225; DL Nolan Hall, Sr., 6-1, 270; LB Eric Kinder, Sr., 6-0, 195; OL Joe Luchessi, Jr., 6-0, 275; OL Matt Sanborn, Sr., 6-2, 270; RB/DB Quentin Buck, Soph., 5-9, 165.
Outlook: The schedule-makers did no favors for Yelm. Of the nine teams the Tornados will face, five advanced to the postseason, including Class 2A state champion Tumwater. With seven starters back on offense and defense, Yelm has the experience to navigate a difficult path. An offensive line that averages about 260 pounds will provide room to run for all-league running back Swilley, the coach’s son. Kinder and Fazzino, who combined to make more than 90 tackles last season, give Yelm a solid core at linebacker. Swilley believes his team’s strength is in the trenches, while it must improve its pass defense and passing attack.