High School Sports

2A SPSL football: Top teams, players to watch and predictions for 2017

phaley@thenewstribune.com

2A SPSL — MOUNTAIN DIVISION PRIMER

ON THE THRONE

Franklin Pierce is the defending champion, but with two-time league MVP Willie Patterson now at Montana State and a host of other losses to graduation this looks to be Fife’s year, especially behind returning starting QB Falani Jennings and MJ Ale, a UW commit, wreaking havoc on the offensive and defensive line.

5 PLAYERS TO WATCH

OL/DL MJ Ale, Fife, sr. — Not many like him in the 2A SPSL. Heck, not many like Ale in the state. At 6-foot-6, 330 pounds, the two-way standout and UW commit is a gamechanger.

RB Alex Bing, Franklin Pierce, sr. Bing makes up for his size with explosiveness. He was a first-team all-league reciever in 2016 with 1,717 recieving yards with 25 touchdowns.

QB Falani Jennings, Fife, sr. — A double threat to all teams that they are sure to face, Jennings has an impressive arm and can run the ball as well making them a nightmare to any defense they come up against.

QB Martin Mendiola, Washington, sr. — Throwing for 711 yards last year, Mandiola helped lead the team to a historic playoff birth (breaking a 26 year drought) and is sure to come back this year hungry to go even further.

QB Samuel Nehren, Lindbergh, sr. — Known to come through clutch when the pressure is on, Nehren is primed to help lead the Eagles to another state playoffs where he will be tough to stop.

PROJECTED FINISH

Fife (7-3 in 2016), Washington (7-4), Franklin Pierce (9-2), White River (5-5), Foss (2-7), Lindbergh (5-5), Foster (5-5), Evergreen (0-9)

FIFE TROJANS

Coach: Kent Nevin, 15th year

2016 record: 7-3, second in division, lost in district playoffs

Offense: Coordinator (set) — Shane Nixon (hybrid wing-T). Returning starters — 7. Top players — QB Falani Jennings, 5-11, 180, sr.; OT MJ Ale, 6-6. 320, sr.; RB Xavior Preston, 5-10, 170, sr.; G Lupeti Sarte, 6-3, 260, jr.; TE Tomasi Puletu, 6-3, 220, sr.; RB Lavelle Alexander, 5-11, 170, sr.; Rec Seth Keeney, 6-3, 170, sr.; G Soli Palesoo, 6-3, 260, jr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) — Arnoldo Arostegui (3-4). Returning starters — 6. Top players — DL MJ Ale, 6-5. 320, jr.; LB Nate Garsky 6-0, 210, sr.

Outlook: Fife is on the charge this year with a strong mantra: Always Team First. That has informed their preparation as they come into the year looking strong behind QB Falani Jenning who is poised to strike as they enter into their senior year ready to take their team all the way this year. Coach Nevin has the experience in their 15th year in what is sure to be another strong showing. Be on the lookout for this team.

FOSS FALCONS

Coach: Matt Johnson, third year

2016 record: 2-7, seventh in division

Offense: Coordinator (set) — Matt Johnson (Pistol). Returning starters — 8. Top players — WR Demetrius Crosby, 6-1, 190, jr., 2nd team all-league WR; WR Kofi Goseer, 6-0, 165, sr.; QB Aaron Swazer, 5-11. 185, jr.; TE Orlando Stumvoll, 6-5. 215, sr.; OL Kado Dysart, 6-0, 275, sr.; RB Zakeel Forest, 5-11, 175, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) — Dave McEachern (Multiple). Returning starters — 6. Top players — DB Demetrius Crosby, 6-1, 190, sr. 1st team all-league DB; LB Cristian Lohrey, 5-10, 175, sr.; DB Christian Barnes, 5-8, 160, jr.; DB D’von Santa Cruz, 6-3, 170, sr.; LB Darrell Massey 5-11, 225 sr.

Outlook: It was a rough run for Foss last year but this is the year that they are looking to strong seniors to help turn things around. Johnson highlighted the team’s experience with a potential NCAA Division I recruit in WR/S Demetrius Crosby back. Crosby is an all-around player (and a starter on Foss’ state-championship basketball team) and he even returned two interceptions last year. Johnson said the team is looking to utilizing space and speed to get in a position to score when they need it the most.

FOSTER BULLDOGS

Coach: Elijah Ruhl, third year

2016 record: 5-5, sixth in division

Offense: Coordinator (set) — Elijah Ruhl (multiple power offense). Returning starters — 7. Top players — RB Blessing Leiato, 5-11, 205, sr.; OL Mila Saole, 6-3, 300, sr.; QB Kaeluv Roberson, 5-10, 160, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) — Fritz Martin (3-4). Returning starters — 6. Top players — DL Richard Gogo, 6-3, 245, sr; DL Sione Moimoi, 6-3, 310, jr.

Outlook: Ruhl said the team has everything to work on, but is confident in the young guys coming up. He said last year that they were getting used to the SPSL, coming from the 3A/2A Seamount League, and that this is year they expect to go to go to the playoffs. He also expressed the confidence in Roberson as having a good year.

FRANKLIN PIERCE CARDINALS

Coach: Mickey Ahrens, third year

2016 record: 9-2, first in division, lost in first round of state playoffs

Offense: Coordinator (set) — Mickey Ahrens (spread). Returning starters — 5. Top players — QB Claudell Quinland, 6-1, 205, so.; WR Alex Bing, 5-7, 160, sr.; OL Ira Howard, 5-11, 290, sr.; WR AJ Starks, 5-7, 150, sr.; RB Stoney Shafer, 5-8, 165, sr.; WR Max Bletterman, 6-0, 155, sr.; WR Tyler Bounchahn, 5-7, 140, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) — Trevor Hanson (4-2-5). Returning starters — 6. Top players — LB Anthony Walker, 5-8, 190, sr.; LB Tyrell Edge, 6-3, 175, sr.; CB Chris Manning 5-9, 145, sr.; CB Rakim Clinton, 5-11, 155, sr.; LB Toney Brown, 6-1, 190, jr.; DT Quonzale Spencer, 5-11, 290, sr.

Outlook: The wild card is QB Claudell Quinland who takes over at QB with the graduation of all-state QB Willie Patterson. However, Ahrens has confidence that he will have good targets to hit as they have five senior recievers who will all play singificant time for the team. They also have RB Stoney Shafer who is a senior and was a second-team all-league pick in in 2016.

LINDBERGH EAGLES

Coach: Tim Tramp, first year

2016 record: 5-5, fourth in division, lost in district playoffs

Offense: Coordinators (set) — Tim Tramp (spread). Returning starters — 2. Top players — QB Samuel Nehren, 5-9, 175, sr.; FB Dylan Silva, 5-10, 210, sr.; WR Josh Bass 6-1, 160, sr.; TE Tyson Brown, 6-1, 215, sr.; OL AJ Sellem, 6-2, 285, jr.; OL David Baginskiy, 6-0. 260. Sr.; WR Montrae Gooden, 6-0, 170, sr.; RB Johsiah Serquinia, 5-10, 240, sr.; WR Anthony Walker, 6-0, 175, sr.; QB Samuel Nehren, 5-9, 170, jr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) — Marc Linn (4-3). Returning starters — 2. Top players — MLB Dylan Silva, 5-10, 210, sr.; DT AJ Sellem, 6-2, 285, jr.

Outlook: It’s a new coach and a new season for the Eagles. Tramp highlighted a strong group of wide receivers with Montrae Gooden and Anthony Walker both 6-foot seniors that are likely to be a force when put out on the field. The team will have to handle losing strong seniors and only have two returning starters on the offensive as well as the defensive side of things. However, behind a strong player like senior QB Samuel Nehren that shouldn’t be a problem.

WASHINGTON PATRIOTS

Coach: Mike Von Rueden, ninth year

2016 record: 7-4, third in division, lost in first round of state playoffs

Offense: Coordinator (set) — Eric Stanczyk (Multiple). Returning starters — 4. Top players — QB Martin Mendiola, 5-7, 156, sr.; RB Joshua Camacho, 5-6, 160, jr.; C Nate Evans, 6-0, 250, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) — Thomas Hoghaug (3-4). Returning starters — 1. Top players — Nose Tackle Nate Evans, 6-0, 250, sr.; MLB Kobe Andrews, 5-10, 160, sr.; OLB Braxton Seiach, 5-11, 180, jr.; K/P Peiyton Hillard, 5-9, 155, sr.

Outlook: The excitement is palpable with this team and they are capable of going far. Von Rueden said senior QB Martin Mendiola is an explosive playmaker and is excited to see him come back. Another that you ought to keep your eye on is the rest of this backfield with Josh Camacho back and Wilson-transfer Ezra Adams.

WHITE RIVER HORNETS

Coach: Jeff Zenisek, second year

2016 record: 5-5, fifth in division

Offense: Coordinator (set) — Jeff Zenisek (spread). Returning starters — 7. Top players — C Chase Lydig, 6-1, 250, sr.; RB Luke Northam, 5-10, 175, sr.; QB TJ Stroschein, 6-2, 170, so.

Defense: Coordinator (set) — Ken Pirone (4-2-5). Returning starters — 7. Top players — DT Chase Lydig, 6-1, 250, sr.; RB/LB Jack Ervien, 5-10, 175, jr.; S Rico Martinez, 6-0, 170, sr.; S Jacob Selander, 6-1, 180, jr.; S Luke Northam, 5-10, 175, sr.; LB Shawn Morgan, 5-6, 170, sr.

Outlook: It was a rough start for Zenisek as coach last year in what was his first year with a team that didn’t win as much as his previous coaching stints did at both Tenino as well as Jefferson. However, this year he has a strong returning lineup with seven returning starters on both the offense as well as the defense. He also had a full summer to think through what the team needs to do which is a whole lot longer than last year when he got the job in June. This time is likely to help the team put up a strong year.

chutchinson@thenewstribune.com

2A SPSL SOUND DIVISION

ON THE THRONE

River Ridge’s reign at the top of the 2A SPSL may end as only a few seniors return this fall. Will this be Steilacoom or Eatonville’s year?

5 PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB J.J Lemming, Steilacoom, jr. — The junior quarterback returns without the likes of LaJon Enis-Carter (Western Oregon) and Marques Hampton (Eastern Washington). But offseason work has built chemistry with his new set of receivers.

WR Tucker Poli, Eatoville, sr. — Poli suffered an ACL tear his junior season and missed it entirely for the Cruisers. This year, he returns healthy and is ready to start at both wide receiver and cornerback.

S Tre McDaniel, Clover Park, jr. — A bright spot for the Warriors, McDaniel returns this season after being selected as an honorable mention on defense.

OL Herbert Polu/Mika Faaitu, River Ridge, jrs. — Both linemen are the only two returners to the Hawks from last season. Their leadership is going to be the crux of them defending River Ridge’s league title.

QB J.K. Grespo, Orting, sr. — A transfer from Bethel, Grespo was in a system where he shared snaps under the center. Now, he is the one running the show for the Cardinals.

PROJECTED FINISH

Steilacoom (8-3 in 2016), Orting (5-5), Eatonville (8-3), River Ridge (9-2), Renton (3-7), Clover Park (0-10), Highline (2-8).

MARK THE CALENDAR

Sept. 22: Steilacoom at Eatonville, 7 p.m. at Eatonville High School

CLOVER PARK WARRIORS

Coach: Jonathan “Taz” Randall, 15th year

2016 record: 0-10, seventh in 2A SPSL.

Offense: Coordinator (set) — Kyle Hagman (spread). Returning starters — 8. Top players — WR Carlo Sallinger, 5-9, 185, sr.; OL Tafao Temese, 5-11, 275, sr.; Malik Harris, 5-7, 175, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) — Michael Lauritzen (3-5). Returning starters — 4. Top players — FS Tre McDaniel, 5-9, 185, jr.; DE Nick Guiterrez, 6-1, 215, sr.; DL Isiah Carr, 6-7, 330, sr.

Outlook: The Warriors have had a tough go of it for the past few years as they have not won a game since 2013. However, there have been a few bright young players come in and buy into Randall’s philosophy. Wide receivers Sallinger and Harris return hoping to put up big yards as they did last yearTemese was also selected to the second team all-league as well, so he will hold down the line for the Warriors.

EATONVILLE CRUISERS

Coach: Gavin Kralik, first year

2015 record: 8-3, third in 2A SPSL Sound, lost in first round of state playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator — Kralik (multiple). Returning starters — 1. Top players — QB Tristan Schoepf, 6-5, 185, jr.; OL Justin Mann, 5-10, 260, sr.; WR Tucker Poli, 5-11, 107, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Steve Wolfe (4-3). Returning starters — 1. Top players — DL Mann; CB Poli.

Outlook: Kralik has some large shoes to fill as he takes over the Cruisers program after George Fairhart left to take over Gig Harbor. There is only one returner on both sides of the ball and that is Mann. Kralik said that everyone else will be completely new to varsity action. Poli also returns this season, though it was a torn ACL that kept him out of his junior year. He will come back to his wide receiver and corner spot.

HIGHLINE PIRATES

Coach: Mark Cross, second year

2016 record: 2-8, sixth in 2A SPSL Sound

Offense: Coordinator — Robert Jones (Wing T). Returning starters — 5. Top Players — OL Blake Suivaaia, 6-2, 340, sr.; RB Ty Shanklin, 5-9, 180, sr.; QB Ricky Castillo, 5-7, 175, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Cross (4-4) Returning starters — 0. Top Players — MLB Jakob Vanderflute, 5-9, 180, jr.; OLB Shanklin.

Outlook: Highline and Cross’ first year in the SPSL was not an easy one. However, the offense will return a few starters including the senior running back Shanklin. He has shown Cross that he is their key player as he has been a leader in offseason training. Suivaaia will also solidify the line up front on the offense as he be the anchor for the trenches.

ORTING CARDINALS

Coach: Marty Parkhurst, 24th year

2016 record: 5-5, fourth in division.

Offense: Coordinator — Parkhurst (jet sweep). Returning starters — 5. Top players — OL Chase Heath, 6-2, 235, sr.; OL Evan Barger, 5-11, 230, sr.; RB Bryce Mecham, 5-10, 175, jr.; OL Loudan McDonald, 5-11, 215, sr.; OL Tyler MacDonald 6-0, 290, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Mitch Fowler (3-4). Returning starters — 5. Top players — DL Heath; DL Barger; OLB Brayden Fowler, 6-1, 185, sr.; OLB Ryker Peterson, 6-3, 215, sr.; SS Mecham

Outlook: Last season, the Cardinals were in the middle of the 2A SPSL Sound division at an even 5-5. This year, they have a new quarterback in senior transfer J.K. Crespo. Having to share the load for the Bethel Braves, Crespo comes to a system where he will more than likely handle all the snaps from under center. Four offensive linemen return as well, making it a stable front ahead of him. Mecham also returns and will slide out to running back.

RENTON INDIANS

Coach: Garrett Welfare, first year

2016 record: 3-7, fifth in 2A SPSL Sound.

Offense: Coordinator — Welfare (power/read option). Returning starters —6. Top Players — OL Michael Richardson, 6-2, 225, sr.; RB Royal Dotson-Good, 5-9, 190, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Thaddeus Kerkhoff (3-5). Returning starters — 6. Top Players — LB Dotson-Goode; LB Keyhlin Majors, 5-7, 195, sr.; DE Albert McClendon, 6-0, 248, sr.; DB Kayee Song, 5-6, 156, sr.

Outlook: One year after changing leagues, the Indians have a new head coach in Welfare. A majority of last year’s group returns, including Royal Dotson-Goode and Michael Richardson. Dotson-Goode had a productive season as a running quarterback last year as he ran for over 1,600 yards and scored 23 TDs for the Indians; earning him offensive player of the year for the 2A SPSL Sound. Richardson will also hold down the trenches as he returns after earning all-league honors last season.

RIVER RIDGE HAWKS

Coach: Steve Schultz, 16th year

2016 record: 9-2, first in 2A SPSL Sound; lost in quarterfinals of state playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator — Jack Zilla (two back). Returning starters — 2. Top Players — OL Herbert Polu, 6-2, 230, jr.; OL Mika Faaitu, 6-2, 225, jr.

Defense: Coordinator — Steve Schultz (3-5). Returning starters — 0.

Outlook: The Hawks are going to have a large hill to climb if they are to repeat as 2A SPSL Sound champions. Only two starters from last year’s high powered offense return this season, and both are linemen. Polu and Faaitu are both juniors so they can build a bond with the new starters along the line. However, after losing graduated players such as All-Area LB Zach Carter and All-Area DL Kelle Sanders, the defense is without a returning leader.

STEILACOOM SENTINELS

Coach: Rich Lane, third year

2016 record: 8-3, second in 2A SPSL Sound; lost in first round of state playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator — Lane (spread). Returning starters — 6. Top players — QB J.J. Lemming, 6-4, 215, jr.; OL Parker Danielson, 6-3, 230, sr.; OL Nate Maassen, 6-1, 250, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Lane (3-4). Returning starters — 3. Top players — MLB Jaymason Willingham, 6-2, 200, jr.; SS Bryan Trambulo, 5-9, 185, sr.; DL Danielson.

Outlook: Some new faces are going to have to step up for the Sentinels this year as they bring back a handful of starters. Leading the way offensively is junior QB J.J. Lemming, coming off a 2,400 yard and 27 TD season. Lemming’s new set of targets have already gained chemistry through their offseason workouts. Willingham returns as a force on the defense as well. The junior middle linebacker had 96 tackles for the Sentinels and trust from the coaches means he will be calling the defense.

jwhitford@thenewstribune.com

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