Capsules by Aaron Swaney and Aaron Lommers, Herald writers
Last season: 3-2 Wesco North, 6-4 overall
Head coach: Greg Dailer, 5th season
Outlook: We’ll go good news first with Arlington: Though turnout numbers have been down over the past few years, the Eagles welcomed 40 freshman to camp this summer. The bad news? With first-team Wesco North receiver Terry Dawn deciding to focus on basketball and the graduation of Blake McPherson, Colton Hordyk and Bo Brummel, Arlington returns one player who scored a touchdown last season. “We’re going to look a lot different,” said Arlington head coach Greg Dailer. Skylor Elgarico is the most experienced offensive player and will be asked to do a lot for the Eagles. Junior Austin Wells and senior A.J. Passalacqua have been splitting time at quarterback and will run a different-looking offense than the one McPherson guided in 2011. Arlington plans to return to the spread-option, bringing more balance to the offense (the Eagles threw the ball close to 80 percent of the plays with McPherson under center) and more run-oriented. Besides Elgarico, junior receivers Saige Taylor and Max Gray will be asked to catch a lot of passes this season. Defensively things aren’t much better. Arlington must replace eight of the 11 spots: two defensive backs, three linebackers and its whole defensive line, including first-team All-Area selection Drew Worley. Dailer said he’s been impressed with DL Stephen Adams and LB Nate Lewis so far in camp. Elgarico and Jaden Jira return to anchor the defensive backfield.
Impact player: Skylor Elgarico | RB/WR
Whether in the backfield, in the slot or out wide, the senior promises to get the football a lot this season. It’s a role that Hordyk perfected and a role that the speedy Elgarico will be asked to step into this season. “We’ll use him a little bit of everywhere,” Dailer said.
Fresh face: John Decker | RB
Though the Eagles didn’t run a lot last season they still had big threats in RB Colton Hordyk and QB Blake McPherson. With those two gone, the Eagles turn to a player who didn’t play last season in Decker. After a solid sophomore season, Decker didn’t turn out for his junior season. Now he’s back and in Arlington’s new-look offense he should get plenty of work and could be key if a young Eagles’ team wants to make the playoffs.
Schedule: at Marysville Pilchuck, Aug. 31; OAK HARBOR, Sept. 7; STANWOOD, Sept. 14; at Mount Vernon, Sept. 21; SNOHOMISH, Sept. 28; LAKE STEVENS, Oct. 5; at Monroe, Oct. 12; at Inglemoor, Oct. 18.
Game to watch: Snohomish, Sept. 28
The Panthers played a big role in keeping Arlington out of the playoffs last season, beating the Eagles in the league finale and then topping them in the first tiebreaker game the next day. This time Arlington gets Snohomish on its turf.
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LAKE STEVENS VIKINGS
Last season: 5-0 Wesco North, 12-1 overall; lost to Skyview in state semifinals
Head coach: Tom Tri, 8th season
Outlook: The Vikings are coming off an amazing ride that saw them reach the Tacoma Dome and come within a game of playing for the Class 4A state championship, but this season will be a challenge. Gone are the likes of quarterback Jake Nelson, linebacker Korey Young and receivers Christian Gasca and Brady Pahukoa and the task for the Vikings is to find replacements to help them stay competitive for a Wesco North championship. Coach Tom Tri, who is going into his eighth season at the helm, said that the team’s offensive and defensive lines will be strengths and he added that the newcomers on the roster will have to be fast learners and execute together as a team if they are going to be successful this season.
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Impact Player: Andrew Elgaen | TE/LB
Elgaen, a 6-foot, 205-pound senior, is a returning first-team All-Wesco linebacker and will be the team’s defensive leader in 2012. Tri said that Elgaen has a lot of versatility that allows him to excel at stopping the run, covering receivers and blitzing off the edge. On offense, Elgaen’s versatility to will be on display as well as Tri expects him to see time at quarterback, tight end and wide receiver.
Fresh face: Conner Coleman | WR/DB
Coleman will play wide receiver and cornerback for the Vikings this season and Tri said Coleman has been one of the hardest workers in the weight room and offseason conditioning since last January. The 5-11, 180 lbs. senior has emerged as one of the leaders on the team and Tri expects to see big plays from him on both sides of the ball this season.
Schedule: at Glacier Peak, Aug. 31; MARYSVILLE PILCHUCK, Sept. 7; at Oak Harbor, Sept. 14, MONROE, Sept. 21; MOUNT VERNON, Sep. 28; at Arlington, Oct. 5; STANWOOD, Oct. 12; at Snohomish, Oct. 19.
Game to watch: at Arlington, Oct. 5
The longtime Wesco North rivals square off in what almost always proves to be a competitive game. The Eagles were the early season pick of many in the Wesco North a year ago, but Lake Stevens’ victory propelled the Vikings to a run in the state playoffs.
Last season: 3-2 Wesco North, 6-4 overall; lost to Skyline in first round of state playoffs
Head coach: Dick Abrams, 2nd season
Outlook: The Monroe football team is coming off of its best season in 19 years and expectations remain high around the Bearcats, who trailed eventual state champ Skyline 31-14 at one point in the first half of their first-round playoff game. Monroe must overcome the loss of All-Area running back and linebacker Jordan Moore and leading receivers Austin Mulholland and Miguel Floresca-Cravens. Back are quarterbacks Mitchell Price and Hunter Bingham, who took over for Price after the junior suffered a season-ending concussion in Week 4. Abrams said Monroe will employ more of a committee approach at running back with Gabe Moore — Jordan’s younger brother — and Max Blais spearheading the group.
Impact player: Dylan Judson | TE/LB
The senior has been one of the best blockers on the team since he was a sophomore but Abrams would like the Bearcats to take advantage of his improving pass-catching skills this year. He’s also a big contributor on defense. Standing 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Judson has the prototypical build of a college H-back and is getting looks from Eastern Washington and Montana so far.
Fresh face: Alex Vidican | OG/DL
On a team that needs help along the line, the sophomore lineman made an impression over the summer and earned himself a starting spot. Vidican isn’t big but Abrams said he’s tough and fun to watch play.
Schedule: at Jackson, Aug. 31, JUANITA, Sept. 7, MARINER, Sep. 14; at Lake Stevens, Sept. 21; at Woodinville, Sept. 28; at Snohomish, Oct. 5; ARLINGTON, Oct. 12; MOUNT VERNON, Oct. 19.
Game to watch: at Lake Stevens, Sept. 21
One of Monroe’s most lopsided losses a year ago was the eventual Wesco champion Lake Stevens. The Bearcats get a shot at revenge in this Wesco North opener.
MOUNT VERNON BULLDOGS
Last season: 1-1 Northwest Conference, 7-4 overall; lost to O’Dea in first round of state playoffs
Head coach: Jay Silver, 1st season
Outlook: Silver takes over a team that had steadily improved under former coach Jaxon Schweikert’s tenure, including a 5-5 record last season and a playoff appearance. This season, though, the Bulldogs will face stiffer competition in Wesco and must adjust to Silver’s coaching style. One blessing is the fact that this season’s senior class is familiar with Silver already because he was the team’s offensive coordinator when they were freshman. Offensively Mount Vernon returns its quarterback Bennett Gibson and a nice stable of receivers, including seniors Zach Bamba, Ruben Fortuna and Matt Bennett, and Silver’s offense is very close to what the Bulldogs ran last season. Most of the changes are occurring on the defensive side, where former Archbishop Murphy assistant coach and UW star Jerry Jensen takes over.
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Impact player: Bennett Gibson | QB
Being a new coach it helps to have another coach on the field and that’s just what Gibson is for Silver. “One of his biggest strengths is he’s maybe as close as you can get to Peyton Manning in high school,” Silver said. “He knows the entire offense.” Gibson, who threw for 2,680 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, is a traditional pocket-passer and is very accurate. Silver said Gibson has received some interest from a few D-1 schools, but that his height (6-foot-1) has been an issue. “If he was 6-4 I believe he’d already have a scholarship,” Silver said.
Fresh face: Tristan Brock | LB
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound sophomore will, along with another sophomore, Nik Ricketts, anchor a young linebacking corps. Already blessed with a varsity body, the sophomore will play a large role in Jensen’s new scheme.
Schedule: SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Aug. 31; at Stanwood, Sept. 7; at Burlington-Edison, Sept. 14; ARLINGTON, Sept. 21; at Lake Stevens, Sept. 28; OAK HARBOR, Oct. 5; SNOHOMISH, Oct. 12; at Monroe, Oct. 19.
Game to watch: Arlington, Sept. 21
After opening the season with three games against familiar opponents and former league rivals (Sedro-Woolley, Stanwood and Burlington-Edison), Mount Vernon gets its first taste of 4A football in this game against the Eagles. It’s at home so that should help.
Last season: 3-2 Wesco North, 4-6 overall; lost to Federal Way in first round of state playoffs
Head coach: Mark Perry, 18th season
Outlook: After a dismal start to 2011, Snohomish rebounded in league play and reeled off three straight wins and then beat Arlington in a Kansas-style tiebreaker to punch its ticket to the playoffs. This year a small but talented senior class returns and gives Perry hope for a deeper playoff run. All-State defensive back Russell Crippen is back (see more below) and so is running back Peter St. Marie, who rushed for 1,104 yards and 17 touchdowns and was named All-Wesco first team. St. Marie broke the tibia bone in his leg over the summer and will miss at least the first three games of the season. The Panthers must replace a lot of size up front, including Darian Caldwell, Nathan Proffitt, Lucas Reinhard and Travis Pickett.
Impact player: Russell Crippen | DB/RB/QB
On defense Crippen’s exploits are well-established. Last season the senior defensive back tied a school record with eight interceptions and was voted to the All-State first team.
It’s on offense where things look like they might change this season. Hoping to get the ball in his star athlete’s hands more often, Perry hopes to move Crippen all over the field, including behind center in a Wildcat-like formation. “We’re going to get the ball in his hands,” Perry said of Crippen, who rushed for 336 yards and six touchdowns last season as a running back. “He’s going to touch the ball and we’ll get him in some space and see what he can do.”
But it’s on the defensive side that Crippen will make his biggest impact. Roaming around the defensive backfield as free safety, Crippen is a threat to intercept or knock down any pass the opposing quarterback throws. “You have to know where he’s at because he can break on any ball that you throw,” Perry said. “You better know where he’s at just in terms of ‘I’m going to throw to this guy, where’s Russell at?’”
For Crippen, who is also a star baseball player, he knows just where he wants to be in late October. “Our motto is one team, one dream,” Crippen said. “You gotta shoot for the stars, right?”
Fresh face: Kyle Gionet | QB
The senior takes over for the graduated Mitchell Stewart, who was efficient in running the Panthers’ offense last season. Perry said Gionet, who holds a 4.0 grade point average, did a phenomenal job at camp over the summer and he has a firm understanding of Snohomish’s offense.
Schedule: at Oak Harbor, Aug. 31; GLACIER PEAK, Sept. 7, at Marysville Pilchuck, Sept. 14; REDMOND, Sept. 21; at Arlington, Sept. 28;, MONROE, Oct. 5; at Mount Vernon, Oct. 12; LAKE STEVENS, Oct. 19.
Game to watch: vs. Glacier Peak, Sept. 7
Though this is a nonleague contest, this is the first time the rival schools have ever faced each other since Glacier Peak was established five years ago. The whole town of Snohomish will be fixated on this game — the Rumble on the River.
WESCO NORTH 4A | POLLS
1. Lake Stevens
5. Mount Vernon
2. Lake Stevens
5. Mount Vernon
1. Lake Stevens
5. Mount Vernon