Longtime assist Pirone takes the reins at White River

Don’t forget, the annual Battle of the Bridge is Friday, Sept. 6, with kickoff at 7 p.m.

Coach Ken Pirone directs his troops during an afternoon practice on Aug. 29. Photo by Kevin Hanson

Coach Ken Pirone directs his troops during an afternoon practice on Aug. 29. Photo by Kevin Hanson

Ken Pirone has taken over as head coach at White River High School, launching a new era of Hornet football.

A eight-year assistant with the Hornet program, Pirone most recently served as defensive coordinator. He spent three seasons in that role under former coach Jeff Zenisek.

Zenisek’s departure was not necessarily anticipated, but falls into the “going home” category. He has taken over the football program at Ellensburg High School, returning to the community where he made his biggest mark as a coach. He previously served as head coach at Central Washington University where he compiled a 35-17-1 record and, with the help of quarterback Jon Kitna, brought the Wildcats an NAIA national title.

Pirone valued his time under Zenisek, calling it an “awesome opportunity” to serve with someone with a successful background in both the college and high school ranks. He has been adding his touches to the program while keeping other elements intact.

Pirone said his squad has shown “great intensity, great excitement” through the summer and since official turnouts began Aug. 21. The emphasis, he said, has been on putting forth a best effort at all times – an element of the game the team can control.

Pirone said Hornet followers shouldn’t expect the same game plan each time the team takes the field. Rather, he’ll always seek to exploit the opposition’s weakness, whether that means running the ball or throwing more often.

“We’re going to spread the ball around, keep things as unpredictable as possible,” he said.

When the Hornets have the ball, it will be in the hands of senior quarterback TJ Stroschein. He’s one of the most experienced QBs around, having played as a freshman and started the past two season. A season ago, was a first team, all-league selection.

The rest of the offense, Pirone said, will feature an ensemble cast. He chooses not to single out particular receivers or running backs, noting that numerous players will rotate onto the field and see action in those roles.

It’s the same story on defense, although Pirone will point out safety Hunter Smith, another first team, all-league selection a year ago.

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