As the White River Hornets kick off the 2017 football campaign, they’ll look to continue the momentum built during the final four weeks of last season.
Everything was new a year ago, what with the introduction of coach Jeff Zenisek. He’s a veteran of the gridiron wars at both the high school and collegiate level, but offered a fresh perspective on football in Buckley. That brought a rocky start as the Hornets dropped five of their first six contests; that turned around in a hurry, though, and the season concluded with a four-game winning streak.
Now, it’s up to the players and coaches to continue the roll.
So far, Zenisek likes what he sees.
“We’re about five steps ahead of where we were last year,” the coach said, alluding to the fact he was hired well into the 2016 summer season. “Last year, we were way behind.”
As is Zenisek’s preference, this year’s Hornets will be a run-first squad. Lining up behind center will be sophomore T.J. Stroschein, who saw significant playing time as a freshman. “He was thrown to the wolves early and had to get some games under his belt,” Zenisek said, adding that experience has brought improved play.
The featured ball-carrier looks to be senior Luke Northam, a multi-purpose sort of back, but the coaching staff has a handful of options. Senior Devyn Hager returns and will look for carries with Hunter Smith, Shawn Morgan and Jack Ervien.
And, while Zenisek likes to keep the ball on the ground, he admits the passing game has come a long way.
On the other side of the ball, Zenisek is looking a repeat performance from 2016, when the Hornets had the No. 1 scoring defense in the SPSL 2A’s Mountain Division. Just three starters were lost from last year’s group, he said.
White River begins its season with the traditional Battle of the Bridge, this year hosting neighboring Enumclaw High. Friday’s game kicks off at 7 p.m. at historic Sheets Field in downtown Buckley. After a Sept. 7 game against Lindbergh at Renton Memorial Stadium, the Hornets will make their on-campus debut Sept. 15.