For Oak Harbor it starts at quarterback but that's not where it ends.
Yes the Wildcats must replace two-year starter Ian Kolste, but save running back Sheyenne Sams, who saw significant carries last season, the Wildcats will have inexperienced players at every skills position on offense.
"We're replacing every one of our specialties," said Oak Harbor coach Jay Turner matter-of-factly.
At quarterback Oak Harbor has two boys competing to replace Kolste: Clayton Doughty and Michael Lanningham. Turner knows it won't be easy to replace Kolste, who was the leader of the Wildcats' offense for the past two years, but is happy with the progress of his two juniors.
"We really like both kids," Turner said. "Each one has different strengths so we've designed different packages for each kid."
The Wildcats have experimented with no-huddle and the pistol offense over the summer but as of now both formations will be more wrinkles rather than a norm.
Sams will be the lead dog out of the backfield, along with junior Dejon Devroe and senior fullback Julian Faralan. Both Devroe and Faralan saw limited time on offense last season.
"It's going to be a lot on mine and Dejon's shoulders," Sams said. "We have the ball in our hands most of the time. If we're going to rely on running our running backs have to be top notch."
At wide receiver gone are the likes of Andre Cumberbatch and JoJo Webster. Turner said that sophomore Dylan Harris, who saw some limited action in last season's playoff loss to Peninsula, has shown some good things, but overall the position is a big question mark for the Wildcats.
"There's some definitely some new faces there," Turner said.
Returning All-Wesco players
First team—Sheyenne Sams, DB; Tyler Adamson, DL; Second team—Sams, RB; Troy Sturdevant, TE; Matt Zafra, OL; Rhys Mattilla, DL; Honorable mention—Ray Quinday, LB; Jackson Constant, DL; Julian Faralan, LB
Player to watch: Sheyenne Sams, RB
The Oak Harbor offense is tailor-made for running backs. From Josiah Miller to Isaiah Trower last season, Oak Harbor backs have put up huge numbers for years.
That should mean big things for Sams.
The Wildcats senior rushed for more than 400 yards last season and is looking to better that this year as the bell cow in the Wildcats' run-heavy offense.
One thing in Sams' favor is the strength of Oak Harbor's offensive line. The Wildcats return four of five linemen with starting experience, needing to only replace Dayne Herron and Jeremy Foster.
"I love running behind our line right now," Sams said. "Everyone that's on the line we've played together since second grade. The chemistry on the field is ridiculous. It's like we're brothers."
Sams was a second-team All-Wesco selection at running back but he was a first-teamer on defense as a defensive back. As one of only a handful of returners in the secondary, his leadership will be called upon just as much on that side of the ball too. Something he's felt early in camp.
"It's intense being a captain," Sams said. "It feels like you have a lot more responsibility."
Fresh face: Clayton Doughty, QB
When asked about the difference between him and his compatriot at quarterback, Michael Lanningham cited Doughty's experience as the main difference between the two.
That experience? A handful of snaps on Friday night.
Doughty is hardly experienced when it comes to the heat of the battle on Friday night, but the little bit he's gotten has given his coaches confidence in him and a slight edge in the quarterback battle. That's not to say that he's a rock solid veteran yet.
"Clay can tend to over-think too much," said fullback Julian Faralan. "That first game is going to open their eyes but they've stepped up.
"Those are some big shoes to fill," Faralan added, referring to Kolste.
Turner said that he hasn't made up his mind who will start and that both Doughty and Lanningham could rotate series during games. Whatever the final decision it's fairly certain that Doughty will be called upon to lead a young Wildcats offense.
As Turner said Friday the Wesco 3A North is Marysville Pilchuck's to lose.
But after that it's anybody's question who will rise in the standings, including a young Oak Harbor team. The Wildcats will need its skill position players to learn on the fly and minimize mistakes, but Turner has shown the ability to coach up his teams as the season progresses and get the most of his players.
The key for the Wildcats is the play of the line. All-Wesco first-team returner Tyler Adamson anchors the offensive line at left tackle and is joined by Jackson Constant, Matt Zafra, Ray Quinday and tight end Troy Sturdevant. That's a lot of experience returning on the line and they should be able to blow open some big holes for the likes of Sams and Co. to run through.
"It's really nice not having to replace linemen," Turner said. "If you gave coaches the choice, of course it would be nice to have depth returning everywhere, it's really nice to be able to build from the offensive line out."
Defensively Oak Harbor must replace tackle machine Jon Lanningham.
"You don't get very many Jon Lanninghams. Just a special type of player," Turner said.
Sturdevant will take over his spot as leader of the unit and will be joined by Faralan, an All-Wesco honorable mention at linebacker.
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