Last season: 6-1 Cascade Conference, 12-2 overall. Lost to Lynden 17-16 in 2A state championship.
Head coach: Bill Marsh, 1st season
Outlook: The Wildcats lost in the 2A state championship game for the second straight season in 2011, losing 17-16 to Lynden in a wild game where the Lions intentionally ran the ball into the end zone for a safety, recovered an onside kick and marched down the field for a score. This season, Archbishop Murphy features a new head coach, Bill Marsh, who is back after a three-year break from head coaching. Marsh, who was head coach at Eastside Catholic and most recently at Mercer Island as an assistant, hopes to continue the Wildcats' winning ways. Archbishop Murphy returns 11 seniors on defense but the loss of all-conference defensive back Morgan Masanda does hurt.
Impact player: Alex Galgano | RB/SS
Galgano made the all-state team at running back as a sophomore and followed that up with an all-league team nod last season. He was also a catcher on the Wildcats baseball team, which won the 2A state championship last season. Now the senior's attention turns to football, where he hopes to get Murphy that elusive state championship, which the Wildcats haven't won since they became a 2A school in 2004. "He's very special in that we can utilize him in pretty much every offensive position we want," Marsh said of Galgano. "He's fast, quick and he's just fun to watch. The burst that he has is pretty unstoppable."
Fresh face: Frank Medlicott | OLB/FB
Medlicott is a senior playing his first football ever for a perennial 2A powerhouse. A star lacrosse player, which he hopes to play in college, was convinced by friends to give football a try. Marsh said he expects Medlicott to start on offense and defense, and make a difference immediately. "We think he'll be an impact player in this league, not just this team," Marsh said. "The guy has a motor that never stops." Marsh also thinks that lacrosse/football crossovers could continue in the future, with both sports being so physical, he says "it's such a natural fit."
Schedule: NORTH KITSAP, Aug. 31; at University City, Sep. 7; KING'S, Sep. 14; at Lakewood, Sep. 21; SOUTH WHIDBEY, Oct. 5; at Sultan, Oct. 12; CEDARCREST, Oct. 19; at Granite Falls, Oct. 26.
Game to watch: King's, Sept. 13
Murphy's game against King's in Week 3 is such a marquee matchup that Root Sports picked it as one of its Games of the Week and will broadcast it. The league rivals look to get an early upper hand on the conference lead. "I think what makes it great is for one night it is the game of the week all over the state," Marsh said. "I think for both teams and all their fans it'll be pretty neat."
CEDARCREST RED WOLVES
Last season: 5-2 Cascade Conference, 7-4 overall; lost to Lynden 35-7 in second round of 2A playoffs
Head coach: Jason Frederick, 9th season
Outlook: Coming off of a solid season in which they advanced to the second round of the playoffs, the Red Wolves may be in for a struggle this year. Cedarcrest graduated all but three of its starters from last year, including all-league running back Martin Vakamoce and quarterback Hunter Lee. Frederick said that his team has a lot of talent but it's young -- more than two-thirds of the team is underclassmen -- and inexperienced. Sophomores Adam Davenport and Liam Thomas will man the quarterback and running back positions, respectively, with Thomas leading a large stable of unproven backs. Returning starters Christian MacMillan (WR/DB), Parker Dixon (C) and Colton Sandhoffer (G/LB) will be asked to provide leadership.
Impact player: Christian MacMillan | WR/DB
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior will be called upon to provide much-needed leadership for a young team. Fredericks is also excited about what he can provide on the field: "He's got good hands and he's a real strong football player."
Fresh face: Liam Thomas | RB/LB
Frederick said the 5-foot-9, 170-pound sophomore back will be used all over the field, including in the slot, and will team with junior fullback Nick Peden in the Red Wolves' backfield. "He's more of a quick, agile back and is very aggressive," Frederick said.
Schedule: at Sammamish, Aug. 31; at Lake Washington, Sep. 7; at Sultan, Sep. 14; at Mount Baker, Sep. 21; GRANITE FALLS, Sep. 28; at King's, Oct. 5; LAKEWOOD, Oct. 12; at Archbishop Murphy, Oct. 19; SOUTH WHIDBEY, Oct. 26.
Game to watch: at Sultan, Sept. 14
After a pair of nonconference games, Cedarcrest travels to Sultan for its league opener and a good opportunity for a win.
Last season: 0-7 Cascade Conference, 1-7 overall
Head coach: Tony Maggio, 1st season
Outlook: Maggio, Coupeville's line coach the past two seasons, takes over as the head coach for the Wolves. So far in practice he's stressed competition among the players. "Our main goal this year is we just want to be competitive in every game," Maggio said. "Win individual battles." The Wolves have six seniors on the squad, after graduating five players off last year's team. They return several skill position players and look to upset a few teams this season. "These kids will start pulling out some wins," Maggio said. Coupeville, a 1A school which will play a nonconference schedule this season, also has eight more kids on the roster than last year.
Impact player: Nick Streubel | OL/DL
An honorable mention Cascade Conference offensive lineman last season, Streubel hopes to improve his line play this season. The 6-feet-2, 280-pound left tackle/defensive tackle has already got Maggio, who was his position coach last season, pretty excited for the upcoming season. "He's just destroying people this year," Maggio said. "He's a monster. He lifts the house. He lifts the gym. He's very athletic. Hell get noticed this year."
Fresh face: Bryce Fleming | WR/RB
As a sophomore last season, Fleming didn't get a lot of playing time, but the junior hit the weight room in the offseason, according to Maggio. This year Maggio expects him to be heavily involved in the Wolves offense and doing a little bit of everything out of the backfield or out wide. He's going to be expected to catch, run and block. "He does everything we ask him to do," Maggio said.
Schedule: at Bellevue Christian, Aug. 31; PORT TOWNSEND, Sep. 7; at Lynden Christian, Sep. 14; NOOKSACK VALLEY, Sep. 21; ORCAS ISLAND, Sep. 28; GRANITE FALLS, Oct. 5; at South Whidbey, Oct. 12; KING'S, Oct. 19; at Sultan, Oct. 26.
Game to watch: South Whidbey, Oct. 12
Last season the Coupeville Wolves went without winning a Cascade Conference game. This season, they hope to change that trend and have penciled this game against their Whidbey Island rival, which recently moved to 1A, as the opportunity to do that. "I want these kids to win that game Thats kind of our rival game, Maggio said. I think weve got a good shot with that this year.
GRANITE FALLS TIGERS
Last season: 1-6 Cascade Conference, 1-8 overall
Head coach: Tracey Bechtholdt, 4th season
Outlook: Granite Falls looks to continue to improve heading into the 2012 season. Bechtholdt has two goals for his team this season: "Stay healthy and win the games we should win," he said. Granite Falls will rely on a group of seniors to provide leadership. Bechtholdt said the seniors are "a good group of kids" and he thinks they'll be a positive influence on the Tigers' younger players. Granite Falls will continue to run a triple-option offense, so Bechtholdt hopes to get good play from linemen Tommy Beadie, DJ Webb and Junior Russell.
Key newcomer: Drew Benson | RB/WR/LB
It's not very often that a senior is a key newcomer but that's the case with Benson. He hasn't played football for two years, but friends talked him into coming back his senior year. "Thank God they did," Bechtholdt said.
Player to watch: Brandon Leitzke | QB
Senior quarterback Brandon Leitzke will be looked upon once again to run the Granite Falls' offense, which runs the triple option. The offense primarily focuses on the ground game, but Bechtholdt noted that "we plan on putting the ball up (in the air) a little bit."
Schedule: at Cedar Park Christian (Bothell), Aug. 31; LAKESIDE, Sep. 7; at South Whidbey, Sep. 14; SULTAN, Sep. 21; at Cedarcrest, Sep. 28; at Coupeville, Oct. 5; KING'S, Oct. 12; at Lakewood, Oct. 19; ARCHBISHOP MURPHY, Oct. 26.
Game to watch: Sultan, Sept. 21
Granite Falls hosts Sultan in the Black and Blue Bowl in Week 4. There's a trophy and bragging rights on the line. Last season the Turks came out on top 23-14.
Last season: 5-2 Cascade Conference, 9-3 overall. Lost to Montesano 35-13 in 1A state quarterfinals
Head coach: Jim Shapiro, 16th season
Outlook: The King's football program looks to continue to build on the deep playoff runs it has made the past three seasons. The No. 1 ranked 1A team in the Tacoma News Tribune's preseason poll, the Knights have been to the 1A state quarterfinals three years in a row but have been unable to get to the semifinals. King's coach Jim Shapiro, who has been at King's for 19 seasons in some capacity, said he believes this team could be the one to finally continue on in the state tournament. "We have the potential to match or exceed previous years with a mature group of seniors and juniors," he said. King's returns the 2011 Cascade Conference Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Billy Green and first-team All-Cascade Conference offensive and defensive lineman Mason Friedline.
Impact player: Mason Friedline | OL/DL
The Yale-bound lineman is a leader both on the gridiron and in the classroom at King's. As a senior captain he is the vocal leader of both the offensive and defensive lines and is the president of the Associated Student Body. "He takes his leadership both on and off the field very seriously," Shapiro said. More importantly on the field he is somebody who will be protecting Green and opening holes for running back Chris Yand.
Fresh face: Chris Yand | RB/LB
Yand was a starting cornerback for the Knights as a sophomore, but sprained his anterior cruciate ligament early in the season. He had a minor clean-up surgery and spent the offseason healing. This year, Yand is now slated to move to outside linebacker on defense, as well as rotating in as one of the starting running backs on offense.
Schedule: LYNDEN, Aug. 31; at Port Angeles, Sep. 7; at Archbishop Murphy, Sep. 14; SOUTH WHIDBEY, Sep. 21; at Sultan, Sep. 28; CEDARCREST, Oct. 5; at Granite Falls, Oct. 12; at Coupeville, Oct. 19; LAKEWOOD, Oct. 26.
Game to watch: Lakewood, Oct. 26
If things in the Cascade Conference play out the way King's and Lakewood coaches hope, this game would be for the Cascade Conference championship. It will be the last scheduled home game of the season for the King's seniors.
Last season: 6-1 Cascade Conference, 10-2 overall. Lost to W.F. West 33-18 in 2A state quarterfinals.
Head coach: Dan Teeter, 7th season
Outlook: The Cougars have an impressive early schedule that will tell the team a lot about where they stand. Lakewood begins the season at Washington, the 10th-ranked 2A team by the Tacoma-News Tribune. The following weeks they play Meridian (No. 10 in 1A), Blaine (No. 6 in 1A) and Archbishop Murphy (No. 3 in 2A) all at home. "We have a challenging schedule this year, but we have very high expectations for our season," Lakewood head coach Dan Teeter said. The Cougars have eight new starters on defense, but return several key offensive players, including dual-threat quarterback Justin Peterson and star running back Donovan Evans (see below).
Impact player: Donovan Evans | RB
Now a senior, Evans is looking to top last seasons' breakout year when he racked up 1,110 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He averaged 100.9 yards per game in the regular season, before rushing for 500 yards in the Cougars' three playoff games.
"He's just a dynamic player, it's fun to watch him run," Teeter said. "We're just excited as all get out to see. He's always been a gifted athlete, but the time he's put in in the weight room he's gone from a good player to really an impact type of player."
Teeter has also been pleased to see Evans grow as a person during his three years at Lakewood. Not only has Evans been working hard to improve on the football field, he's also achieved more success in the classroom. This season he's taking on a leadership role for the Cougars, and has been named a team captain.
"Donovan is a kid that's really been fun to watch grow into a leadership role," Teeter said. "I don't know if that's something he's had to do in the past but … now he's going to be a team captain. I've seen a lot of growth and a lot of maturity."
Evans has embraced the atmosphere at Lakewood, Teeter said, including the core values of commitment, selflessness, enthusiasm and perseverance. The Cougars' coach said that he hopes Evans, who is getting looks from several colleges, enjoys his final year at Lakewood.
"We always preach that we want to be a football family," Teeter said. "I hope he's building relationships that last a lifetime. Obviously as a team we want to go to state and do well there, but as a man we want him to develop and build relationships."
Fresh face: Dylan Donahue | T/DE
Donahue worked his way into the starting lineup toward the end of his sophomore season and looks to be a key contributor for Lakewood as a junior. He was the co-Most Valuable Player at the linemen's Trench Camp in Oregon this summer and he posted a few bench press records in the Cougars' weight room this summer. "He's starting to draw some attention and we're excited to see what he does for us this year," Teeter said.
Schedule: at Washington, Aug. 31; MERIDIAN, Sep. 7; BLAINE, Sep. 14; ARCHBISHOP MURPHY, Sep. 21; at South Whidbey, Sep. 28; SULTAN, Oct. 5; at Cedarcrest, Oct. 12; GRANITE FALLS, Oct. 19; at King's, Oct. 26.
Game to watch: King's, Oct. 26
Teeter's Cougars are excited for the first three non-conference games, as well as the Cascade Conference opener against perennial power Archbishop Murphy. However, the game of the year could be Lakewood's season finale against King's, a game that could help crown a conference champion. "I think that's a game both schools are looking forward to," Teeter said.
SOUTH WHIDBEY FALCONS
Last season: 3-4 Cascade Conference, 4-5 overall
Head coach: Andy Davis, 3rd season
Outlook: South Whidbey is going through a lot of changes this season. The Falcons, while still in the Cascade Conference, are moving from 2A to the 1A classification this season. The team also graduated quite a few seniors, leaving an incredibly young group of "coachable, enthusiastic kids," according to Davis. "The goal is to be competitive in every game, and improve each week," Davis said. "We have a pretty young team, with a small senior class, but the seniors that we have are pretty darned good kids."
Impact player: Aaron Curfman | LB/FB
As one of the few seniors on the South Whidbey defense -- and team -- Curfman will be counted on to provide some senior leadership for the Falcons. He was named to the all-Cascade Conference first team defense at linebacker.
Fresh face(s): Nick Bennett | OLB/WR and Nate Hanson | LB/OL
Bennett and Hanson are two of several new players that will be newcomers for the very young South Whidbey varsity squad. The two juniors, who were primarily junior varsity players during their sophomore seasons, were singled out by Davis as potential impact players for the Falcons in 2012.
Schedule: at Chelan, Aug. 31; CEDAR PARK CHRISTIAN (BOTHELL), Sep. 7; GRANITE FALLS, Sep. 14; at King's, Sep. 21; LAKEWOOD, Sep. 28; at Archbishop Murphy, Oct. 5; COUPEVILLE, Oct. 12; SULTAN, Oct. 19; at Cedarcrest, Oct. 26.
Game to watch: Chelan, Aug. 31
South Whidbey is excited to get its season underway, and a Labor Day Weekend-contest with Chelan will be the Falcons 1A debut.
Last season: 2-5 Cascade Conference, 3-6 overall
Head coach: Ben Murphy, 3rd season
Outlook: Murphy's third season will be quite different from the first two. After two straight seasons with small senior classes, Murphy finally has a large number of upperclassmen to deal with this year. "Those young kids are seniors and they've really taken a leadership role," Murphy said. "We can see a huge difference in the team. I do expect better things for the Turks this year." The results have been evident in the Turks' early practices, as well as the motto they chose for the season. "I think the seniors summed it up really well with the slogan they chose for the year: 'Hustle and heart set us apart,'" Murphy said.
Impact player: Bryce MacDicken | RB/LB
MacDicken may be a bit undersized -- Murphy estimates he's maybe 5-foot-5, 150 pounds – but the Sultan coach is adamant that he will be a big part of the Turks' offense this season. "He's starting to get his share of carries," Murphy said. "He's really putting in the work in the weight room this summer. For being an undersized kid he really brings it. … I think we'll have some big things from him."
Fresh face: Steven Doubek | RB/DB
The Sultan senior missed all of last season because of a severe concussion he sustained during a team scrimmage. Doubek's been cleared by doctors to resume football activities, and Murphy expects big things from him. "If he can stay healthy, he'll be a definite impact player for us," Murphy said. "He's a real explosive kid."
Schedule: NORTH MASON, Aug. 31; at Mount Baker, Sep. 7; CEDARCREST, Sep. 14; at Granite Falls, Sep. 21; KING'S, Sep. 28; at Lakewood, Oct. 5; ARCHBISHOP MURPHY, Oct. 12; at South Whidbey, Oct. 19; COUPEVILLE, Oct. 26.
Game to watch: Cedarcrest, Sept. 14
The conference opener at home against Cedarcrest in Week 3 will help Sultan know where it stands in the Cascade Conference. "That (Cedarcrest game) will be a good test for us," Murphy said. "It will be a good measuring stick."
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