Eds. note: Herald writer David Krueger visited Marysville Pilchuck training camp on Wednesday.
What’s new? Offensive line
The Tomahawks’ offensive line has to deal with several key departures from last year’s Wesco 3A North champion team including all-league first-teamers Iggy Gabov and Ishmael Perez. Jory Cooper was second-team all-league and even tight end Conner Martinis is gone, meaning Marysville Pilchuck could have a whole new look up front.
“We’ve definitely got some things to figure out personnel-wise,” said Marysville Pilchuck head coach Brandon Carson. “We’ll have to replace everybody. You have to count our tight end too. There’s four or five guys we have to replace up front. It seems like it’s like that each year.”
What will help the Tomahawks are all those returning all-Wesco players, including quarterback Jake Luton, running back Austin Joyner and kicker Ryan Spiva, who will all try to improve on last year’s run that saw the Tomahawks get all the way to the 3A state quarterfinals.
“We’re trying to get better at what we do,” Carson said. “We have a handful of our skill guys returning. You go through different phases. … Last year, it’s over with. It’s a whole new season and lots of different things can occur. We’re just doing our best to get better at what we do. (Last year) we were happy, we had a nice little playoff run last year and hopefully we can build upon that.”
Returning all-conference players
First team—Jake Luton (Sr., Quarterback), Austin Joyner (Jr., Running Back and Defensive Back), Alex Gray (Sr., Linebacker), Ryan Spiva (Sr., Kicker). Second team—Dante Fields (Sr., Defensive Line). Honorable Mention: Nic Alonso (Jr., Running Back and Defensive Back).
Player to watch: Austin Joyner, Jr., RB
Last season Joyner tore through defenses, averaging almost 14 yards per carry as he tallied 2,036 rushing yards as a sophomore. After a year in the weight room, Joyner is even stronger than he was a year before, which has to terrify defensive coordinators that have to gameplan against Joyner and the Tomahawks.
“Being a year older and another year in the weight room he’s gotten a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger,” Carson said.
With fellow running back Kacey Walker, who ran for about 1,500 yards last season, graduated, Joyner could be in line for more carries. Carson said there isn’t a limit or goal for how many carries Joyner gets per game. He just wants to make sure his playmaker gets the ball as much as possible.
“A few games he had less than 10 carries,” Carson said. “But he averages 14 yards a carry. A lot of people are going to do their best to stop him and key on him. … We want to get the ball in his hands as much as we can.”
Fresh face: Austin Schimke, Sr., OL
Schimke was a rare junior starter on the Tomahawks’ offensive line last season, a rarity for a Marysville Pilchuck team that usually has seniors starting up front. Schimke played for three and a half games before hurting his knee in a game against Shorewood in week four. The injury required meniscus surgery that ended Schimke’s junior season.
Now a senior, Schimke is primed to reclaim his starting spot and be a big contributor for the Tomahawks.
“He was doing great,” Carson said of Schimke before his injury. “He was a junior that started for us and typically we don’t have a lot of juniors start up front for us. He’s a strong kid who works his butt off in the weight room. We expect big things out of him. We’re hopeful he could be the leader of that offensive line group. He has the potential to be one of our best linemen.”
Outlook: Very good.
The Tomahawks return most of the key pieces of last year’s deep playoff run, and those pieces now have playoff experience and another year in the weight room under their belts. Marysville Pilchuck took care of business in the 3A North last season, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t be successful in defending their league title.
And thanks to the experience of last year, another deep playoff run is also a strong possibility.
“We want to improve upon what we accomplished last year,” Carson said. “A lot of things are going to have to go into that. We lost a lot of key players. We lost a 1,500 yard rusher (Walker). We lost three guys that played in the all-state game (Jordan Hoorn, Gabov and Kyle Nobach). We have some holes to fill and we just need some players to step up. We want to challenge for the Wesco North title and make it into the playoffs and just go from there. But there’s some things that need to happen between now and then.”