WRHS FOOTBALL: Hornets raising the roof and bar

Having seen 27 seniors graduate from last year’s squad and counting just three players with extensive varsity experience, Joe Sprouse could justifiably be concerned about this season’s White River High football program.

Instead, the first-year head coach likes what he sees.

“I’m excited,” Sprouse said, after putting his squad through a week and a half of drills. “We’ve got some kids who can play. The cupboard’s definitely not empty.”

Sprouse is familiar with the Hornets’ football fortunes, having spent the past six seasons as a position coach. He’s also a White River alumnus, having graduated in 2000 after earning all-state honors as a linebacker.

Sprouse likes the physical skills his players bring to the field, but also is impressed with their mental approach.

“The kids have really bought into the program,” he said. “Their commitment level has been through the roof.”

That’s especially important this year, as the Hornets have been introduced to a new offensive playbook and new defensive schemes.

Leading the offense will be sophomore quarterback Zach McMillen who, according to his coach, plays above his years.

“He has some intangibles mentally, has a little bit of savvy,” Sprouse said. “He’s not your typical sophomore quarterback.”

McMillen won’t be expected to carry the entire load, as Sprouse expects to see an even division between running plays and passes in his pro-style offense. The Hornet ground game highlights Anthony Dove, who started as a sophomore, was hurt as a junior and returns for a senior campaign. Josh Miller heads a group of fullbacks who should play a key role in the offense.

When the ball is put in the air, Cody Havelock and Mark Monteiro will likely be the primary targets.

Opening holes up front and protecting McMillen will be linemen David Meagher, Blake Maresh, Scott Rose and Jeff Lind.

A handful of players will see abundant time on the field, also anchoring the defense, Sprouse said.

Aside from a new coach, the Hornets will play in a new South Puget Sound League division, having dropped from 3A status to 2A. It shapes up to be a tough division, Sprouse said, with a lot of unknowns early in the season. For example, when the eight 2A coaches gathered recently, six different teams received votes as the No. 1 club.

The Hornets open the season with a pair of nonleague games, first traveling to Bonney Lake Friday night to face the Class 3A Panthers. Then comes a Sept. 10 home opener against Orting, a large Class 1A opponent.

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