Jeff Zenisek, in his third year at the helm of the White River High football program, knows two things about this year’s Hornet squad: plenty of players will get their first taste of varsity ball and, second, they’re hungry for success.
Last season’s team fell short of making the state playoffs, dropping a loser-out contest to River Ridge, and most of those Hornets were lost to graduation. It’s up to their replacements to take the next step.
Zenisek is pleased thus far, particularly with his turnout numbers, which have grown from about 60 the past two seasons to 74 as of last week. There were 42 Hornets attending a summer camp at Eastern Washington University and participation was good in the summer weightlifting program, he noted.
He also is happy with the fact that 27 freshmen have turned out this fall, a positive sign for any program.
The Hornets have been preparing since Aug. 15 for this Friday, Aug. 31, when the prep season kicks off. White River will make its 2018 debut in traditional fashion, challenging neighboring Enumclaw High in the Battle of the Bridge; the season opener kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Enumclaw Expo Center.
Last year’s White River team was just a game above .500 at season’s end, finishing 5-4, but posted an impressive 5-2 mark in South Puget League 2A Mountain Division play. Along the way, the Hornets crushed Lindbergh 44-0, rolled past Washington 35-7 and toasted Evergreen 60-0.
Zenisek has just three starters returning on offense and three on defense.
When the Hornets have the ball, things will begin with junior quarterback TJ Stroschein, who returns after earning honorable mention all-league status a year ago. His top receiver, again this year, looks to be Jacob Selander.
The receiving corps should see more action that last year’s group, as Zenisek is implementing a spread offense. A year ago, he figures, the Hornets ran the ball about 80 percent of the time. There will be more balance this fall.
On the line, returning starters include seniors Dylan Timlick and Jaysen Jorgensen.
Defensively, Jack Ervien leads the way at linebacker, coming off a season in which he an honorable mention all-league pick. Selander returns to the starting defensive backfield.
Hornet fans will notice quite a few names spending a lot of minutes on the field. Most of his starters, Zenisek said, will be playing both offense and defense.