High School Sports

4A NPSL preview: Primer, predictions, team capsules

Head coach Mike Bush of Kentwood High School in football practice, August 30, 2016.
Head coach Mike Bush of Kentwood High School in football practice, August 30, 2016. phaley@thenewstribune.com

4A NORTH PUGET SOUND LEAGUE — CASCADE DIVISION

ON THE THRONE

Kentwood returns one defensive starter, but the school’s tradition speaks for itself. Until proven otherwise, the Conks are the team to beat.

CHANGE IS GOOD

Hazen’s Joe Tryon, a 6-foot-5 WSU commit, will play all over the field, on both sides, for first-year coach Chris Bennett, a former UPS assistant.

BY THE NUMBERS

Kent-Meridian three-year starting QB Ben Woods is the top returning passer from the 4A SPSL (2,031 yards, 12 TDs).

PROJECTED FINISH

Kentwood, Kentlake, Kennedy Catholic, Hazen, Kent-Meridian, Kentridge, Tahoma, Mount Rainier.

MARK THE DATE

Oct. 28: Kentwood vs. Kentlake, 7 p.m. at French Field.

HAZEN HIGHLANDERS

Coach: Chris Bennett, first year.

2015: 3-7, fifth in 3A/2A Seamount.

Offense: Coordinator (set) — Bennett (multiple). Returning starters — 5. Top players — QB/RB Jacob Black, 5-10, 170, jr.; OL Ryan Breske, 5-11, 205, sr.; OL Vance Dumas, 5-11, 225, soph.; WR Tyson Mowrey, 5-10, 160, sr.; TE Joe Tryon, 6-5, 235, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) — Fred Abila (multiple). Returning starters — 5. Top players — LB Bryce Jenkins, 5-11, 195, sr.; DL Nathaniel Spears, 5-11, 215, soph.; DE Tryon; LB Austin Wales, 6-4, 200, jr.; DB Corbin Walker, 6-0, 170, soph.

Outlook: Bennett was the defensive backs coach at the University of Puget Sound, which has become somewhat of a feeder program for area high schools (Thomas Ford at Stadium and Ricky Daley at Mount Tahoma were UPS assistants under Jeff Thomas). But not many first-year coaches get an athlete like Tryon, who is committed to WSU as a rush defensive end. Bennett, who coached at Issaquah for six years, said Tryon has the speed to also split out to receiver, but they’ll predominantly use him at tight end.

KENNEDY CATHOLIC LANCERS

Coach: Sheldon Cross, first year.

2015: 9-1, first in 3A/2A Seamount.

Offense: Coordinator — Cross (spread). Returning starters — N/A. Top players — QB Ben Gaoteote, 6-1, 180, sr.; WR Trevor Hoffman, 6-4, 190, sr.; OL Marvin Maaele, 6-2, 275, sr.; OL Bowen McConville, 6-2, 235, jr.; RB Kendall Oakes, 5-11, 180, jr.; WR Primo Ramirez, 6-0, 180, jr.; WR Keannu Royster, 6-0, 175, sr.; WR Jared Thurber, 6-4, 170, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — N/A. Returning starters — N/A. Top players — DB Nick Blakley, 6-0, 170, sr.; LB Kaleb Ives, 6-0, 190, soph.; LB Alex Parker, 6-1, 210, sr.; LB Sav’ell Smalls, 6-4, 225, fr.; DB Matt Wallitner, 6-1, 170, jr.

Outlook: Wing-T? Gone. Shotgun sets with four and five wide receivers? Welcome to the Sheldon Cross era. The Stadium grad and first-year Kennedy coach was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Idaho State University, and his offense will look nothing like that of recently retired Bob Bourgette’s. Hoffman (not the former Padres closer) will be a big target on the outside, and pay attention to Smalls — starting now. Cross said he’ll be playing big-time college ball in four years.

KENT-MERIDIAN ROYALS

Coach: Brett Allen, seventh year.

2015: 6-4, fourth in 4A SPSL Northeast.

Offense: Coordinator — Aron Copelane (shotgun spread/pistol). Returning starters — 4. Top players — OL Zeek Cordova, 6-0, 245, sr.; WR/RB Jo McConico, 5-11, 175, jr.; QB Ben Woods, 6-0, 185, sr.; WR Elijah Wright, 5-10, 160, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Idrissa Binta (3-4). Returning starters — 4. Top players — LB Cordova; DB McConico; DB Amarjaray Pace, 5-8, 170, sr.; LB Jeremiah Williams, 5-10, 210, sr.

Outlook: The challenge for these Royals? Discovering their identity. They lost some explosive receivers to graduation, returned one offensive lineman and many of the key returners will play both ways, including Woods (2,001 passing yards last year), who will double as the team’s safety. Allen calls it an “all hands on deck” mentality this year. McConico can be a multifaceted weapon, and K-M has one asset no other in this league has — a three-year starting QB.

KENTLAKE FALCONS

Coach: Brett Thompson, second year.

2015: 4-6, third in 4A SPSL Northeast, lost in 4A district playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator — Kevin Hurt/Dan Nelson (spread). Returning starters — 6. Top players — WR Larry Alar, 5-8, 165, sr.; RB Eddie Edwards IV, 5-5, 155, sr.; OL Brandon Kelley, 6-3, 285, sr.; WR Mitchell Lockhart, 6-0, 180, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Nick Bartoli (3-3). Returning starters — 7. Top players — LB Marques Fuala’au, 6-1, 185, jr.; LB Tony Heimann, 5-7, 190, jr.; DL Kelley; DB Lockhart; LB Trask Rogers, 6-0, 185, sr.; LB Micah Vaifale, 5-9, 230, sr.

Outlook: Thompson had the Falcons surging at the end of last season, when they upset Tahoma and 4A SPSL Northeast champion Kentwood to reach the 4A district playoffs. Now there’s expectations in Year 2, with a good chance to win the league title in their first year in the 4A NSPL Cascade. Edwards returns to the backfield after getting a share of the carries last year, and the Falcons return most of their linebackers and secondary from on a defense that was seventh in the 4A SPSL in total defense last year.

KENTRIDGE CHARGERS

Coach: Marty Osborn, 26th year.

2015: 3-7, fifth in 4A SPSL Northeast.

Offense: Coordinator — Glenn Dacus (pistol wing-T). Returning starters — 4. Top players — RB JaQuan DuBose, 6-0, 250, sr.; OL Isaac Chung, 6-4, 290, jr.; WR Solomon Hines, 6-0, 175, jr.; RB Chris Nickerson, 5-5, 160, sr.; OL T.J. Timai, 5-8, 260, sr.; OL Noah Titialii, 6-2, 225, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — David Fowler/Jeff Shumake (3-4). Returning starters — 3. Top players — DB Hines; K/P Sabian Tsang, 6-2, 155, sr.; DL Kevin Dang, 6-0, 265, jr.; LB DuBose.

Outlook: The Chargers needed a fresh start — their last winning season was in 2009. Now it’s a new league, a new season with a new offense, a new defense and, just like all these Kent schools, a lot of new faces. Osborn, the school’s all-time winningest coach (138-113), implemented a pistol wing-T offense this year. Hines’ speed gives him ability to break open any play. He’ll start at receiver after ending last year as a running back.

KENTWOOD CONQUERORS

Coach: Mike Bush, second year.

2015: 7-3, first in 4A SPSL Northeast, lost in 4A district playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator — Bush (multiple). Returning starters — 3. Top players — OL Timmy Breeden, 6-2, 220, jr.; RB Chavez Kalua-Fuimaono, 5-11, 195, sr.; OL Andrew Leick, 6-2, 210, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Ed Kramer (3-4). Returning starters — 1. Top players — LB Christian Duenas-Palaita, 601, 240, sr.; DB Mason Glover, 5-9, 180, jr.; LB Dyson Johnson, 6-0, 190, jr.; DB Alex McGeachy, 6-2, 160, jr.; LB Devin Ridge, 6-2, 185, sr.

Outlook: The Conks lost just about everybody from last year. The defensive line might not look as gargantuan, but this program has never endured a losing season, and it returns Kalua-Fuimaono, who is the top returning rusher from the 4A SPSL last year (662 yards, 12 TDs). He’ll split time in the backfield with Mason Glover. After years of Kentwood’s ground-and-pound game, expect more spread concepts with Justin Seiber taking over at QB and it being Year Two for Bush, the former WSU football and basketball standout.

MT. RAINIER RAMS

Coach: Tremain Mack, fifth year.

2015: 1-9, fourth in 4A SPSL Northwest.

Offense: Coordinator — Steve Fenton (pistol spread). Returning starters — 8. Top players — WR Terrell Grier, 6-2, 195, sr.; RB Edwin Armstead, 5-7, 160, sr.; RB Justin Martinez, 5-8, 185, jr.

Defense: Coordinator — Mack (4-3). Returning starters — 6. Top players — DB William Konongata’a, 5-8, 160, soph.; LB Martinez; DL Tyler Snow, 6-2, 215, jr.

Outlook: Mack doesn’t care so much about which of these new schools he faces. Only wins. And he thinks the skill position players the Rams have can get them some, especially with Grier as a big target on the outside and Armstead as the lead back. They just have to get them the ball. J.J. Young will start at QB after playing eight-man football with Seattle Lutheran last year, when he accumulated 2,452 all-purpose yards.

TAHOMA BEARS

Coach: Tony Davis, 23rd year.

2015: 7-3, second in 4A SPSL Northeast, lost in 4A district playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator — Melvin Wells (spread). Returning starters — 3. Top players — WR Jerrel Chapman, 6-1, 170, jr.; OL James Mathews, 6-0, 245, jr.; OL Allister MacKinnon, 5-10, 205, jr.; WR Aidan Harmon, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Walt Howard (odd front). Returning starters — 3. Top players — DB Chapman; DB Harmon; LB Josh Smith; LB Dylan Stewart.

Outlook: The weapons are there. How to get them the ball is the question Davis faces. Tahoma had the top passing offense in the 4A SPSL last year with Amandre Williams, who is now at the UW. Tahoma does return Chapman, though, who was third in the league in receptions with 53 for 633 yards, to go with Smith and Harmon outside. The Bears have a long road ahead, which is why they’ve embraced a grind-it-out mentality.

4A NORTH PUGET SOUND LEAGUE — OLYMPIC DIVISION

ON THE THRONE

Quick — which school in the Federal Way School District has the most wins the past two years? That would be Todd Beamer.

CHANGE IS GOOD

Jefferson’s Jsais McKinley doesn’t run as heavily as Kenneth Turner, who led 4A SPSL with 1,665 rushing yards last year. But he could be even better.

BY THE NUMBERS

Bitner Wilson ran for 814 yards as the second fiddle to AMV’s high-powered passing offense. He’ll be featured far more this year.

PROJECTED FINISH

Todd Beamer, Federal Way, Enumclaw, Thomas Jefferson, Auburn Mountainview, Auburn Riverside, Auburn, Decatur.

MARK THE DATE

Sept. 23: Todd Beamer vs. Federal Way, 7 p.m. at Federal Way Memorial Stadium.

AUBURN TROJANS

Coach: Gordon Elliott, 15th year.

2015: 3-7, sixth in 3A SPSL.

Offense: Coordinator — Boone Borden (jet sweep). Returning starters — 3. Top players — RB Joe Fagan, 5-8, 160, jr.; OL Jacob Kludsikosky, 6-4, 290, jr.; OL Bailey Pederson, 5-10, 190, sr.; QB Gavin Strojan, 6-3, 220, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Kjel Kiilsgaard (3-3 flex). Returning starters — 1. Top players — LB E.J. Brown, 6-0, 250, sr.; DL Anthony King, 5-10, 240, jr.; LB Cole Washburn, 6-0, 185, jr.

Outlook: Elliott is in much of the same boat as many of the schools in the 4A NPSL with so few returning seniors. The offensive line, the most crucial position group in Auburn’s jet sweep offense, is feeling that the most, with Elliott projecting to start one senior —the 5-10, 190-pound Pederson — among four juniors. But Strojan is back at quarterback after starting three games last year. He’s an athlete, which shows in that he also plays on the school’s basketball team.

AUBURN MOUNTAINVIEW LIONS

Coach: Jared Gervais, sixth year

2015: 8-3, second in 3A SPSL, lost in first round of 3A state playoffs

Offense: Coordinator — Gervais/Brian Grout (spread). Returning starters — 3. Top players — ATH Talan Alfrey, 6-2, 190, jr.; WR Campbell Friend, 5-9, 160, sr.; OL Wyatt Lewis, 6-2, 230, jr.; WR Ben Mose, 6-3, 210, sr.; OL Joe Norris, 6-6, 260, sr.; OL Hunter White, 5-11, 220, sr.; RB Bitner Wilson, 5-10, 215, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Kent Rodseth (3-3 stack). Returning starters — 5. Top players — DB Alfrey; LB Bridger Child, 5-9, 180, sr.; DB Sui Daniels, 5-11, 170, jr.; LB Michael Kramer, 6-2, 205, sr.; DL Mose, 6-3, 210, sr.; LB Wilson.

Outlook: Elephant in the room — how do the Lions replace Gresch Jensen, who is now at the University of Montana after throwing for 7,063 yards and rushing for 1,485 in four years? Gervais has worked both Alfrey, a three-sport athlete and district triple-jump champion in track, and Daniels. But that won’t matter if Wilson has a breakout season. He ran for 841 yards last year before AMV lost to eventual state champion Eastside Catholic in the state playoffs.

AUBURN RIVERSIDE RAVENS

Coach: Bryant Thomas, fourth year.

2015: 1-9, eighth in 3A SPSL.

Offense: Coordinator — Marcus Yzaguirre (spread option). Returning starters — 8. Top players — RB Sam Braboy, 6-1, 205, jr.; OL Chris Ceja, 6-1, 220, sr.; TE Blake Foster, 6-4, 225, sr.; QB Tiano Malietufa, 5-11, 215, jr.; OL Terrell Moffitt, 6-4, 330, sr.; WR Isaiah Prescott, 5-9, 165, jr.; WR O’Darious Shaw, 6-1, 185, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Ralph Cubit (Flex). Returning starters — 7. Top players — LB Ceja; DB Malietufa; DL Moffitt; DB Jaden Robinson, 6-1, 180, jr.; DL Trendae Umi-Toato’o, 5-10, 275, jr.

Outlook: Thomas makes no qualms about it — Malietufa is a running back playing quarterback. With his frame, the two-year starter is more apt to run defenders over than run around them. Expect this offense to run much like Ohio State’s. After back-to-back one-win seasons, this could be the team that gets back to the postseason for the first time since Thomas’ first year in 2013. A key player could also be safety Devon Ford, who will start as a freshman.

DECATUR GOLDEN GATORS

Coach: Levi Suiaunoa, third year.

2015: 1-9, fifth in 4A SPSL Northwest.

Offense: Coordinator — Suiaunoa (spread). Returning starters — 5. Top players — RB Joel Gilbert, 5-9, 170, jr.; WR Tim Hughes, 5-5, 165, jr.; WR Deantre Scott, 5-10, 175, sr.; OL Isidore Utu, 6-0, 250, sr.; OL Darius Viena, 6-3, 280, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — Jason Russell (4-3). Returning starters — 4. Top players — DB DeAngelo Brown, 6-0, 180, sr.; LB Jeremiah Palaita, 6-0, 210, soph.; DL Quinzy Salu, 6-3, 240, jr.

Outlook: Suiaunoa isn’t going to use inexperience as an excuse this year. Though the team lacks depth, it still has some athletes he hopes to be able to isolate in space, particularly Scott and Brown, who both play both ways. The Golden Gators have won three games the past three years, but they have a two-year starting offensive lineman returning in Viena and Salu can wreak havoc on the defensive line. It’s a tight-knit group that Suiaunoa said needs to stay healthy to be successful.

ENUMCLAW HORNETS

Coach: Mark Gunderson, fifth year.

2015: 3-7, seventh in 3A SPSL.

Offense: Coordinator — Jeff Johnson (power-I, multiple). Returning starters — 3. Top players — WR Kaden Anderson, 6-6, 195, jr.; WR Ethan Eilertson, 6-2, 180, soph.; RB Josh Ennis, 6-2, 215, jr.; QB Jacob Revell, 6-4, 185, sr.; OL Sam Rodarte, 6-2, 305, sr.; OL Keegan Ulrich, 6-4, 235, jr.; OL Eric Knutson, 6-0, 220, jr.

Defense: Coordinator — Gunderson (5-2). Returning starters — 3. Top players — DL Knutson; DB Bear Kuro, 5-10, 180, jr.; DB Brennen Lindberg, 5-10, 170, sr.; DL Austin Rewaldt, 5-9, 205, jr.; DL Rodarte; DL Ulrich; LB Christian Wakefield, 5-9, 180, sr.

Outlook: Don’t be fooled by the inexperience. Gunderson said he hasn’t had the depth he’ll have this year since he’s been at Enumclaw, including with two running backs. Ennis is the thunder and Taylor Beaird is the lightning. This offense will be far more ground-and-pound than past years with new OC Johnson, a former coach at North Beach and Rainier. And it’s now an offense that Gunderson said more fits his personality, as opposed to the shotgun spread they had been running.

FEDERAL WAY EAGLES

Coach: John Meagher, 19th year.

2015: 2-9, third in 4A SPSL Northwest.

Offense: Coordinator — Beckett Cordes (pistol option). Returning starters — 6. Top players — OL Messiah Brooks, 6-2, 280, sr.; OL Tony Chan, 6-2, 275, sr.; OL Warren Fonoti, 6-0, 285, sr.; RB KJ Ridders, 6-0, 175, sr.; QB Gabe Togia, 6-0, 185, sr.

Defense: Coordinator — CJ Green (30 stack). Returning starters — 5. Top players — DB Kelen Blackshire, 6-1, 185, sr.; LB Darius Bourne, 6-0, 185, sr.; LB Draven Mose-Tupua, 5-11, 205, sr.; LB Ridders; DL Iki Tiuli, 6-3, 305, jr.; DL Angel Velasquez, 5-10, 175, sr.

Outlook: Togia broke his leg in the third game of the season last year. And that was after the No. 1 QB, D’Jimon Jones, who is now at WSU, had broke a bone in his foot. Jones was one of two players the Eagles lost to Pac-12 schools (Andrzej Hughes-Murray, now at Oregon State, was the other). Togia isn’t the athlete Jones was, even though he’s also a standout catcher on the baseball team, but he might be a better overall quarterback. He’ll also have an experienced offensive line returning the bulk of its starters. Federal Way has 16 former athletes who will play college football this year.

THOMAS JEFFERSON RAIDERS

Coach: Scott Morgan, first year.

2015: 7-3, first in 4A SPSL Northwest, lost in 4A district playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator — Jason Torgerson (multiple). Returning starters — 5. Top players — RB Jayvon Buckley, 6-0, 180, jr.; QB Mason De La Cruz, sr.; OL Andrew Fernandez, 6-2, 275, sr.; WR Leontre Griffin, 5-9, 150, sr.; TE Sonny Fuavai, 6-2, 220, sr.; RB Jsais McKinley, 5-10, 175, sr.; OL Bijan SanJose-Lee, 5-11, 260, jr.

Defense: Coordinator — Morgan (4-3). Returning starters — 5. Top players — DB Buckley; DL Fernandez; DL/LB Fuavai; DL Joseph Kim, 6-0, 170, sr.; LB McKinley; DL SanJose-Lee.

Outlook: McKinley might not be the bruising north-south running back Kenneth Turner, who led the 4A SPSL with 1,665 rushing yards, was for the Raiders last year, but he might be better overall. The team enters inexperienced after last year’s first outright league title in school history, but with far more speed. Griffin came out for football this year, and Morgan, who was the defensive coordinator last year, said he’s the fastest player they’ve ever had.

TODD BEAMER TITANS

Coach: Darren McKay, fifth year.

2015: 6-4, second in 4A SPSL Northwest, lost in 4A district playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator — Shawn McKay (multiple I). Returning starters — 5. Top players — OL Josh Crichton, 6-2, 215, sr.; WR Parker Edwards, 6-1, 170, sr.; OL Dadee Matila, 6-4, 325, soph.; WR Colin McKay, 5-9, 170, jr.; OL Marcus Salanoa, 6-0, 285, sr.; QB Kuma Scanlan, 6-0, 190, jr.; OL Alexx Schmidt, 6-2, 260, soph.; RB Billie Vann, 5-9, 180, soph.

Defense: Coordinator — Darren McKay (4-2-5). Returning starters — 3. Top players — DL Crichton; DL Jamaal Ioane, 6-3, 270, sr.; DL Lincoln Liulama, 6-3, 215, sr.; LB Desmond Nelton, 5-10, 195, sr.; LB Eddie Priymak, sr.

Outlook: Not many schools play two inside linebackers at quarterback. At least not successful ones. McKay plans to split the time at QB with Scanlan and Nelton, who was the team’s leading tackler last year. McKay’s nephew, Colin, is their fastest player and he’ll play slot receiver and return kicks and punts. But the greatest strength is on D-line with Liulama being able to rush the QB as a stand-up linebacker or defensive end. He’ll also play WR on offense.

TJ Cotterill: tcotterill@thenewstribune.com

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