Less than five freeway miles south from W.F. West High School toward Napavine sits a Shell gas station and deli mart. Every Wednesday evening during football season, the folks there know to put out extra supplies.
The menu isn’t broad — burritos, chicken, jo-jos — but the intake is prodigious. It’s the weekly offensive line dinner, and look out.
“Hog food,” said Brayden Bostwick, a senior tackle for the Bearcats. “They know we’re coming. They stock up for us.”
It’s a tight-knit position group led by five experienced seniors, and W.F. West coach Bob Wollan said the guys up front have a chance to be special this season.
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“The O-line is kind of its own little subculture,” said Wollan, now in his 11th season at the Chehalis school. “There’s a brotherhood in there. It’s kind of where your football team really starts.
“Normally, they don’t get a lot of ink, but in our world we know how important they are, and we treat them as such.”
Wollan said his skilled, experienced line, coupled with talent at running back — starting with Austin Emery, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior and first team all-Evergreen Conference 2A player last year — give the Bearcats a chance to be a physically running team.
Senior Tyler Pallas (6-1, 230) is projected to start at left tackle this season, but he will also get reps at guard, tackle and center, Wollan said. Last season, he played right guard and earned first-team all-EvCo honors. Like two of his linemates, he competed at the state Class 2A wrestling tournament last winter.
“He’s our most versatile offensive player,” Wollan said. “He’s worked his tail off to be just a great football player.”
Senior Hunter Arredondo, who will play right tackle at 6-6 and 290 pounds, missed a cluster of games for the Bearcats due to injury last season, then took to the wrestling mat in winter and finished second in the state 2A tournament in the 285-pound class while weighing in at 240 pounds. Arredondo says he packed on roughly 50 pounds over the spring and summer.
“He’s really made a big step since last year physically,” Wollan said. “ But more importantly his mental game, just his buy-in, his commitment level and his mentality. The sky’s the limit for this guy.”
Senior Tysen Paul (at 215 pounds after dropping 30 pounds through offseason workouts) will be in his second year at center after logging time in the program as a quarterback and tight end. Wollan joked that Paul would need to take two jerseys to games — he will also be the Bearcats’ backup QB.
“I probably know the offense better than anyone on this team,” Paul said.
The Bearcats’ left guard, senior Brayden Bennett, said he has a “different mentality” at 5-foot-7 and 195 pounds.
“I’m pretty undersized,” he said, “so I just have to be faster than everybody else.”
Said Wollan of Bennett, “He’s probably the strongest kid on the team — very fast, very explosive, very comfortable getting in the mix with people.”
The senior Bostwick (6-4, 225) will be in the Bearcats’ rotation at tackle. He made the 2A state wrestling tournament last winter in the 195-pound class.
The tight end is junior Kevin Clevenger (6-2, 240), an all-Evergreen Conference pick as a defensive lineman last year.
The running game that the offensive line will be blocking for is also pretty impressive.
The explosive Emery catches the ball well out of the backfield, Wollan said. At fullback is Kolby Steen (5-8, 185), a first-team all-EvCo linebacker last season. Junior running back Kaimi Henry has “pretty special talents,” Wollan said.
“Between what’s up front, and these guys, we’re pretty excited about our possibilities running the ball,” Wollan said.
The Bearcats’ quarterback, junior Nole Wollan, lacks varsity experience, but has the benefit of being the coach’s son.
“Probably his strength is his understanding of the big picture,” Wollan said of his quarterback..
How W.F. West fares in the 2A Evergreen Conference — this year with six members — will depend less on the other teams and more on how Wollan’s “work in progress” clicks together as a team.
“I’m not sure if we figure it out in Week 1 or Week 5,” he said. “We’ve got to stay healthy. Lady Luck’s got to shine.”
It all starts for the Bearcats with the band of brothers in the offensive trenches. If they treat opponents the way they plunder the burrito bins at the Shell station, there could be feasts on the schedule this season.
“I feel like our line’s going to be pretty solid,” Arredondo said. “It’s really important to be able to trust the guy next to you.”
“It kind of goes with all our seniors,” Wollan said. “This is your season. We’ll go where you lead us.”