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Can the White River Hornets maintain their ascent? | 2012 Football Preview
If the White River High football team continues its upward spiral under coach Joe Sprouse, good things are in store for the coming season.
Two years ago, the Hornets went 1-9 under the first-year coach, who was an all-state linebacker during his time in the maroon and gold. Last season brought a massive turnaround, as the Hornets improved to 6-1 in South Puget Sound League 2A play, shared the league title and earned home-field advantage in the opening round of postseason play. The playoff excitement might have ended with a Week 1, 20-13 loss to the Interlake Saints, but a positive football vibe had returned to Buckley.
"We're going to take another step toward success," Sprouse said after leading eight days of practice. "We lost some seniors, but we have some kids ready to step up and make this a trend."
Although the Hornets lost a large handful of seniors to graduation, Sprouse is pleased with the talent he sees up and down his roster.
Players to watch, he said, include Keenan Fagan and Garrett Quiles, two-way players who are expected to make an impact on both sides of the ball. They should get most of the touches in Sprouse's run-first offense.
When the ball is in the air, it will be veteran quarterback Zach McMillen doing the honors. The third-year starter has a handful of options at receiver, including Devin Liebel, Austin May, Dustin France and Sean Hayes.
McMillen should have time to throw, and ball carriers should find decent holes to run through, as the Hornets have three returning starters on the offensive line.
But it's the defense that should really leave its mark on opponents, Sprouse said.
"I expect our defense to play at a really high level," he said, noting that eight starters return from last year's defensive crew, which ranked second in the SPSL 2A.
Among those holding opponents in check will be Austin Ross, Mikey O'Connor and Chris Skinner.
The only dent in the Hornet armor comes in the form of an injury to tight end Scott Anderson, a three-year starter who Sprouse identifies as one of the best in the league. Anderson was hurt during camp and will likely miss the first game or two.
The Hornets open the season in exciting fashion, first renewing a rivalry with neighboring Enumclaw High and then returning – for one night only – to their traditional home at Sheets Field in downtown Buckley. The season opener against EHS comes Friday night and the Sheets Field game is Sept. 7, both beginning at 7 p.m. The Hornets haven't played at Sheets since fall 2002.