Some reloading is in order at Enumclaw High, where the football staff witnessed the departure of a dozen athletes who earned all-league honors a season ago.
But coach Mark Gun-derson and his staff have high hopes for both the returning nucleus and a fresh batch of additions to the varsity roster.
Coaches have been putting their troops through the rigors of preseason practice since Aug. 17 and are counting down the days until they see live action. The 2016 campaign kicks off this Friday with the annual “Battle of the Bridge” against neighboring White River High. Enumclaw plays host this time around and kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Enumclaw Expo Center.
Looking for a preseason test, the Hornets headed to French Field at Kent-Meridian High the evening of Aug. 26 for a jamboree. There, EHS squared off against the host Royals and the Kentridge Chargers.
Having seen 23 seniors depart the program due to graduation, Gunderson knew some untested players would have to make a quick transition to the varsity level. So far, he likes what he sees.
“We’re extremely happy with the way our kids have stepped into starting roles,” he said prior to departing for Friday’s jamboree.
There will be a new look when the Hornets have the ball, as veteran coach Jeff Johnson has joined the coaching staff as offensive coordinator. Gunderson admits he’s learning from Johnson, who has 38 years of experience and has twice led programs as a head coach. Johnson brings a Power I formation to the program, which entails a “run first” mentality.
The early season brought a battle at the quarterback spot and senior Jake Revell moved to the top of the list. The top candidate to run the ball is junior Josh Ennis and, when the ball is put in the air, a big target will be 6-foot-6 Kaden Anderson, a junior tight end. Another favorite target in the receiving corps looks to be sophomore Ethan Eilertson.
Opening holes and protecting the quarterback will be an offensive line headed by senior Sam Rodarte and juniors Keegan Ulrich and Eric Knutson.
Gunderson will continue to run the defensive side of the ball.
Up front, he’ll have the trio of Rodarte, Ulrich and Knutson playing both ways, anchoring both lines. Rodarte, who tops out at better than 300 pounds, could prove to be a force at nose guard, while Ulrich returns after earning honorable mention all-league honors a year ago.
Gunderson is counting on “a breakout year” from middle linebacker Christian Wakefield, a senior who moves into a starting role for the first time, and sees a lot of potential in defensive backs like Chad Bulpin and Brennen Lindbergh. Roaming the defensive backfield will be safety Bear Kuro.
It’s a new world for EHS athletics with the move to a brand-new league, the North Puget Sound 4A. Gunderson has fielded plenty of questions about Enumclaw’s decision to step up to the large 4A ranks, countering concerns with by pointing out that the entire league consists of teams of 3A size that opted up.