1. Tumwater (12-1)
2. North Thurston (5-4)
3. W.F. West (9-2)
4. Centralia (7-3)
5. River Ridge (5-4)
6. Black Hills (3-7)
7. Aberdeen (1-8)
*2010 season records
Last year’s run to the Class 2A state title was never supposed to be a one-year mission for Tumwater, which returns 10 all-Evergreen Conference players. The Thunderbirds are surely poised for another run – and boast a nice blend of size up front, and experience throughout its lineup. Contenders W.F. West, North Thurston and possibly Centralia look to take down Tumwater in similar fashion – passing the ball.
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER
River Ridge junior Brad Wallace can be a one-man wrecking crew every time he touches the ball. He’s been an all-league receiver and running back in his two years with the Hawks and had more than 2,000 all-purpose yards in 2010. He’s on the radar of Oregon, UW, WSU and others.
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Expect big things from Tumwater defensive lineman Jaime Bryant, who is one of the best around, and he’s only a junior. Opposing teams don’t run on the same side Bryant is lined up on too often. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder likely will be the next NCAA Division I player from his family – his older brother, Hank, signed with Idaho in 2007.
Centralia’s Mason Musselman steps into the roll of starting running back, filling the void left by EvCo co-offensive MVP Zack Baldwin, who has graduated. Musselman rushed for 439 yards on 68 carries as a junior in 2010.
DID YOU KNOW?
It’s a bit of a family affair at River Ridge. Head coach Steve Schultz gets to coach his son, new starting quarterback Colby Schultz and his nephew, Brad Wallace. Both teenagers have played football together since they were six years old.
GAME OF THE YEAR
W.F. West at Tumwater, 7 p.m., Sept. 16.
It’s both teams’ EvCo opener, but it’s most likely each teams’ toughest matchup of the league schedule. Chehalis gave Tumwater its closest game last year, with the T-Birds edging out the Bearcats, 15-12.
Head coach: Ron Clark, ninth season
Top players: QB Caleb Harris, jr., 6-0, 165; FB/LB Bryceson Talley, jr., 5-9, 200; TE Mack Walsh, sr., 6-2, 200; OL/DL Jaime Miranda, jr., 5-11, 260; OL/DL Kaleb Levao, so., 6-2, 250; WR Charlie Dietrich, jr., 6-0, 160; WR/DB Reilly Fairchild, jr., 6-0, 160; RB Spencer Brooks, 6-1, 170; OL/DL Tanner Niels, sr., 6-3, 205.
Outlook: The Bobcats are full of youth from a young team that finished winless in league in 2010, and coach Ron Clark will rely heavily on underclassmen again this season. Talley and Brooks are speedy in the backfield, with Brooks being the team’s main breakaway threat. He competed in the 110-meter hurdles at the Class 2A state track meet. Aberdeen has decent size on the line, with Miranda and Levao at 250 and 260 pounds, respectively.
Black Hills Wolves
Head coach: Jack Zilla, 14th season
Top players: Returning starters: OL/LB Jacob Crawford, sr., 6-2, 235; LB/RB Marquise Wall, jr., 6-0, 220; OL/DL Kyle Dunn, jr., 5-11, 200; WR/DB Kalvin Hargrave, sr., 5-10, 175; WR/DB Shayne Robinson, jr., 5-11, 190; OL Jeremy Phillips, sr., 5-11, 250; RB/DB Cameron Stone, sr., 5-10, 190; RB/DB Matt McDonald, sr., 5-10, 185; TE/DL Colin Bushell, sr., 6-2, 205; QB/DB Josh Freeto, sr., 6-0, 190; WR/DB Mitch Stone, jr., 5-8, 175; WR/DB Nick Knittle, so., 5-8, 170; WR/DL Devin Warner, sr., 5-11, 170; RB/LB Conrad Nygren, jr., 5-8, 180.
Outlook: It is the fourth season of the spread-option attack. And even though Zilla has preferred to run the ball more in that offense – it was hard not to with workhorse tailback Cody Peterson around in 2008 and 2009 – this season the ball will be in the Josh Freeto’s hands a bit more to pass. The Wolves are breaking in a new running back – Cameron Stone, who moves over from receiver. Black Hills opens with 1A Montesano and 4A Shelton, and both teams defeated the Wolves by one point each last season (29-28 and 41-40).
Head coach: Steve Amrine, first season
Top players: OL/RB Ryker Gronseth, sr., 5-10, 190; OL/DL Kyle White, 6-2, 200; TE/DE Dayna Squibb, sr., 6-1, 200; OL/DL Everett Cooper, sr., 6-2, 230; DB Cole Housden, sr., 5-10, 165; DB Jordan Brager, sr., 5-10, 160; LB Conner Knudsvig, sr., 5-8, 190; DL Taylor Lively, sr., 6-1, 240; LB Tony Stulken, sr., 5-11; 220; RB Mason Mussleman, sr., 6-0, 180; WR/DB Joey Hansen, sr., 6-0, 165; RB/LB Justice Tasby, jr., 6-0, 190.
Outlook: Gone is longtime coach John Schultz, who resigned to take a job as principal. In is Steve Amrine, who has completely changed the offense from Wing-T to a pro-style attack. Former Onalaska head coach John Hallead is the Tigers’ offensive coordinator. Amrine, who has more than 15 years of college coaching experience, expects his new club to compete for one of four playoff berths in the EvCo. All 11 returning starters are seniors, and will rely on an experienced offensive line, led by Dayna Squibb, Ryker Gronseth, Everett Cooper, and Kyle White.
North Thurston Rams
Head coach: Rocky Patchin, 20th season
Top players: QB Ben Broeker, sr., 6-5, 200; WR/DB Landon Rushton, sr., 6-0, 165; WR/DB Matt Reid, sr., 5-10, 160; OL/DL Alex Dumar, sr., 6-0, 220; TE/OL/DL Jacob Anderson, jr., 6-1, 235; DL/TE Ryan Glendenning, jr., 6-0, 200; DE/OL Zach Wilson, sr., 6-1, 220; LB Jake Sabastian, jr., 5-11, 170; RB/LB Mo Manning, jr., 5-11, 215; K/P Joey Renaud, sr., 5-10, 165; RB/LB Ande Grantham, jr., 6-1, 210; WR/DB PK Machado, sr., 5-9, 165; RB/LB Brandon Bellesario, jr., 5-11, 210; WR/DB Tru Hicks, jr., 5-11, 175; RB/LB Hayden Malisha, so., 6-0, 190; OL/DL Alex Rice, so., 6-6, 290.
Outlook: Be prepared to see a lot of air express from the Rams with a lot of experience at quarterback and in the receiving corps. Ben Broeker is on record-setting pace as a passer, and Landon Rushton set a single-game school record for receiving yards last season (193 yards on five catches) and Broeker nearly eclipsed the single-game an. Patchin says two big question marks are the backfield and offensive line positions with inexperience and youth at both spots. Lawyer Tillman, last year’s EvCo co-offensive MVP, has graduated and is now playing at Southern Oregon University.
River Ridge Hawks
Head coach: Steve Schultz, ninth season
Top players: RB Brad Wallace, jr., 6-0, 185; OL Zach Bowling, sr., 6-5, 240; WR/DB Jeremy Camacho, sr., 5-7, 150; OL/LB Christian Dilworth, sr., 5-11, 215; OL/DE Rayne Lemaster, jr., 6-2, 225; DB Nich Justus, sr., 5-10, 155; QB Colby Schultz, jr., 5-8, 155; C Theo Cobb, jr., 6-0, 220; OL/DL Rasheed O’Daniel, 5-10, 280; TE/DE Jonathan Roberts, jr., 5-9, 180; OL/DL Vaughn Berg, so., 5-9, 205; LB Matthew Tucket, jr., 5-10, 195.
Outlook: Can River Ridge maintain its momentum? Last season was the second time in the school’s 17-year history the Hawks finished with a winning record (5-4). The last time was in 1998 when they went 7-4 and advanced to the 4A state quarterfinals. Junior Brad Wallace will be a go-to player again, seeing the majority of playing time at running back but he will line up as a receiver as well. Wallace had more than 2,000 all-purpose yards and is a dangerous player when he has the ball in his hands. The Camacho brothers – Jeremy and Elijah – stand 5-7 and 5-5, respectively.
Head coach: Sid Otton, 37th season
Top players: QB Daniel Hinkle, sr., 5-10, 170; HB/LB Ronnie Hastie, sr., 5-11, 185; FB Peyton Olson, sr., 5-8, 150; TE/DE Zach Wimberly, 6-3, 235; OT Josh Hanson, sr., 6-7, 240; OG Tyler Burbidge, sr., 5-10, 195; LB Riley Prentice, sr., 5-10, 175; C Taylor Stephens, sr., 6-2, 245; DL Jaimie Bryant, jr., 6-5, 270; DB Riston Andrews, sr., 6-1, 190; OG Hunter Burbidge, sr., 5-11, 195; P/DL Brennan Hinkle, sr., 5-10, 180.
Outlook: Last season’s 34-14 victory over Archbishop Murphy in the 2A state title game gave Tumwater its fifth state championship in school history. The last time Tumwater won back-to-back state titles came in 1989 and 1990. Coach Sid Otton says a big strength is his senior class. All but one returning starter is a senior, led by QB Daniel Hinkle (1,400 yards, 23 TDs in 2010) with seven returnees having earned all-EvCo honors. Tumwater will have its 50th anniversary game against Chehalis on Sept. 16, celebrating 50 years since the high school opened (1961).
W.F. West Bearcats
Head coach: Bob Wollan, sixth season
Top players: QB Mitch Gueller, sr., 6-3, 205; RB/LB Bryce Hanson, sr., 5-10, 190; RB/LB Cody Sanchez, sr., 5-9, 175; OL/DL Levi Taylor, sr., 5-10, 210; OL/DL Tyler Beesley, sr., 6-3, 260.
Outlook: Expect the Bearcats to go as far as senior Gueller can take them. After throwing for 1,387 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, Gueller will carry a lot of offensive load. Also, the running game and defensive line should be rock-solid. Eight starters return for the Bearcats, who finished 9-2 and loss to Archbishop Murphy in the first round of last year’s 2A state playoffs. It could be an emotional first game for the Bearcats, who lost defensive coordinator Bill Peterson. He was killed in a car accident in May.
Capsules by Meg Wochnick, staff writer