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Long list of returning talent at White River | Football Preview
As the days draw near to the season-opening kickoff, White River High coach Joe Sprouse can’t help but be excited.
Nearly all the statistical leaders have returned from a season ago, there’s a wealth of experience on both sides of the ball and, overall, the squad has not been stung too badly by the injury bug. In short, the fourth-year coach is expecting good things this fall.
Sprouse is quick to correct those who note the Hornets are looking to bounce back from a down year. Last fall’s team went 3-4 in league and 4-6 overall, missing the South Puget Sound League 2A playoffs a season after capturing the league title. Sprouse reminds that injuries plagued at least six key contributors last season and, despite that, the team was just a play or two away from a postseason appearance.
He likes what he’s seen during early-season practices. A real bonus, Sprouse said, is the fact that everyone is comfortable with the offense, now that it’s been in place three full seasons.
When the Hornets line up for Friday’s 7 p.m. season opener against Enumclaw, there will be a new face at quarterback. Senior Sean Hayes has moved from a receiving slot and – standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 190 pounds – he gives White River a heady presence at the controls.
“He’s got a high football IQ,” Sprouse said. “He’s going to surprise a lot of people.”
What won’t surprise anyone is the Hornets’ run-first mentality. Sprouse figures the ball will be carried on at least 60 percent of White River’s offensive plays. Getting most of the work will be senior Keenan Fagan, with fellow backfield returnee Tristan Knaus also in the mix. Much of the offensive success will be on Fagan’s shoulders, as Sprouse intends to get him the ball at least 25 times a game.
When Hayes puts the ball in the air, a primary target should be junior Dustin France, who led the team in receiving a season ago.
Making things work up front is an offensive line that boasts both experience and size. The group will average better than 220 pounds across the front and, of huge importance, all are healthy.
Defensively, the strength is straight up the middle, Sprouse said, highlighting a trio of Trevor Schoon at nose guard, Austin Ross at middle linebacker and Fagan at safety. Schoon led the Hornets last year in tackles for loss. With his size and athleticism, Hayes will anchor one defensive end position, where he’ll look to repeat as the squad’s sack leader.
The kicking game appears in good hands, as France was an all-league selection a year ago.