There’s a new vibe surrounding the White River High football program, courtesy of a new coach calling the shots.
Coach Jeff Zenisek had a brief summertime opportunity to get a look at his troops, in advance of the mid-August beginning of formal turnouts. Now, he and his veteran staff are winding down the days until the much-anticipated kickoff of a new season.
White River begins the 2016 campaign in familiar fashion, engaging in the annual “Battle of the Bridge” against neighboring Enumclaw High. The Hornet-Hornet clash begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2, this year on the turf at the Enumclaw Expo Center.
Zenisek was introduced to the White River faithful the evening of June 20, bringing a résumé that includes stops at both the collegiate and high school levels. He most recently coached at Thomas Jefferson High School in the Federal Way district, where he led the Raiders for two seasons. His past also includes collegiate stops at Washington State University, Central Washington University – where he led the Wildcats to a national title – and Northern Iowa. Prep assignments have been at Orcas Island, Mercer Island and Tenino prior to Thomas Jefferson.
Zenisek takes over a White River program that fell on hard times the past couple of seasons, but retains memories of success not too long ago. The 2013 edition of the Hornets advanced to the state’s Elite Eight and the 2011 team earned a league championship. Things haven’t gone nearly as well lately, as both the 2014 and 2015 teams finished with just one league victory.
Transitions aren’t easy, and Zenisek admitted – after a week and a half of practice sessions – “we’re still trying to figure out who we are.” But he’s heartened by the work ethic and excitement he sees in his squad.
Hornet fans can expect to see multiple offensive sets, sometimes two backs, sometimes a single back. The consistent things is running the ball, which Zenisek makes a priority.
The best thing about White River’s backfield, the coach believes, is the versatility and the depth. Among the handful of ballcarriers in the mix for playing time are Shawn Morgan, who provides a physical presence, and Devyn Hager, a scatback type who proves more elusive. Hunter Heriot and Luke Northam also are getting a look from the staff.
Zenisek said there has been a good battle for the starting quarterback job and it appears incumbent Trevor Johnson has emerged on top.
When Johnson puts the ball in the air, receiver Ethan Clay could be the beneficiary. The coach said Clay has the best hands on the squad and runs crisp routes. Jared Selander also is found among the receiving corps, along with tight ends Michael Padreira and Ricardo Martinez.
Zenisek will serve as offensive coordinator.
Defensively, Ken Pirone has been elevated to coordinator and will oversee a group generally in a four-man front. The line will likely feature Chase Lydig, Ryan Lusk, Heriot, Colton Kammerzell and Aaron Moore.
Experience could be key to the Hornets’ defensive success, with Jared Selander and Luke Northam among seven or eight players with previous varsity playing time.