Its going to be tough all the way across the board. Monroe and Lake are obviously the teams to beat, but I think Mount Vernon is going to be extremely difficult to play and Snohomish is going to be spreading it around a little bit. I think the North is anybody's division.
-- Greg Dailer, Arlington coach
Kai Smalley, Snohomish head coach
A Salem, Ore., native, Smalley most recently was the head coach at Park City High School in Park City, Utah. He returns to the Northwest to coach a group of Panthers whose main rival, Glacier Peak, is coached by one of Smalley's longtime friends and former colleague, Rory Rosenbach.
As Rosenbach did at Glacier Peak, Smalley is installing a spread offense, and said his new team is doing a great job picking it up.
"Our kids' enthusiasm level was where I couldn't imagine it would have been at," Smalley said after Snohomish's first practice of the season. "Which is the biggest thing we could ask for. Their mentality is all in the right place and that's going to only help with picking up the offense and the defense."
Smalley becomes the first Snohomish head coach not named Mark Perry or Dick Armstrong in the past 50 years. He said his family was excited to move back west, where the Snohomish community has welcomed him with open arms.
"The community's been very inviting," Smalley said. "It's good to be back in the Northwest."
The new head coach has brought a lot of changes to a Snohomish team that posted a 2-6 record last season. But with several key players returning, including first-team All-Wesco 4A North offensive lineman Spencer Lipke, Smalley and the Panthers have high hopes.
"Right now I'm just excited that we're executing the way we are this early on," Smalley said. "... If they keep rolling like that throughout the season, they're going to make things happen."
What else is new?
Last year, Arlington's Skylor Elgarico switched from receiver to quarterback after the second week of the season and went on to lead the Wesco 4A North in rushing with 1,019 yards.
Don't expect an Eagles quarterback to lead that category this year.
With Elgarico graduated, Arlington's offense will be led by a new face this season. Junior Cameron Scrimgeour and sophomore Diarmuid Murphy are battling for the No. 1 QB spot and neither one is the runner Elgarico was last year or Blake McPherson the year before that.
"We'll focus on different plays in our playbook other than the read-option; a little more running-back oriented," Arlington head coach Greg Dailer said. "Our big play last year was quarterback-counter and (we) basically won't be running that at all this year."
Dailer uses a run-oriented spread option, in the line of University of Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, but expect the Eagles to pass the ball more. Not only are Scrimgeour and Murphy both pass-first quarterbacks, Arlington has depth at wide receiver -- including Max Gray, Austin Wells and Noah Andal -- and a solid tight end in Nate Lewis.
"We're probably going to throw it around a little more," Dailer said.
Gavin O'Neil's role
The former Lake Stevens quarterback will be a do-everything athlete for the Vikings as sophomore Jacob Eason takes over behind center.
Mount Vernon quarterback
Bennett Gibson is gone and in his place behind center is the leader of the defense, Tristan Brock, a stocky junior with a strong arm and tough personality.
Peyton Plucker, Snohomish, S
At this time last year, Peyton Plucker was a freshman playing football for the first time. He spent the season on the freshman team and, once his new head coach arrived, opened some eyes.
"He got noticed right away in spring ball as a sophomore playing safety," Panthers coach Kai Smalley said. "He just turned heads with how he plays downhill and his patience reading the patterns the offense is running."
Plucker made perhaps the best defensive play in Snohomish's first practice of the season.
"I think we only had one interception (in our first practice) and it was him," Smalley said. "He stepped up and took it all the way back."
Shanden Mixayphone, Monroe, WR/DB
With big-play ability, this junior competed with some of his teammates in the 7-on-7 tournaments in the offseason and is poised to make an impact on the varsity this season.
Tanner Krenz, Lake Stevens, TE/CB
Krenz, who started last season at running back but lost his job to Austin Otis, switches to tight end.
GAMES TO WATCH
Arlington vs. Pilchuck
John C. Larson Stadium, Arlington
Friday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m.
The Eagles seek revenge against their old 4A North rivals — this time at home.
Lake Stevens vs. Glacier Peak
LSHS Football Field, Lake Stevens
Friday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m.
Two of the top five teams in The Herald's power rankings do battle in Week 1.
Snohomish vs. Glacier Peak
Snohomish Veterans Memorial Stadium
Friday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m.
Former colleagues now rivals do battle in 2nd annual Dick Armstrong Memorial Cup.
Lake Stevens vs. Monroe
Bearcat Stadium, Monroe
Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.
The Vikings suffered their only league loss of the season to Monroe last year.
Lake Stevens vs. Arlington
John C. Larson, Arlington
Friday, Oct. 11, 7 p.m.
This annual battle is always a big factor in the race for the 4A North title.
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