The White River Hornets got a bit of an early start on the season, participating Aug. 26 in a jamboree at Peninsula High School. But the action gets real tomorrow, Thursday, when the Hornets host Capital High in a nonleague encounter.
The challenge for fourth-year head coach Kenny Pirone and his staff will be to replace some key contributors from a season ago. And, in the process, to improve on last year’s overall record of 4-6 (3-4 in South Puget Sound League 2A play).
A step in the right direction is the turnout, which numbers more than 80 players. But the attitude has to be right and Pirone likes what he sees. “This has been an awesome group,” he reported. “They have taken it upon themselves to bring it each and every day at practice and we can’t wait to see how it translates out on the field.”
The most noticeable losses to last year’s program were in the offensive backfield, where quarterback Cole Cashman graduated along with talented running backs Payne Plaster and Josh Poulin.
There has been a battle – an interesting one at that – for the starting QB job. In the mix have been Jacob Rennaker, a tight end last year who earned first team all-league honors, and Aaden Rathbun, a first-time player with the football program. After evaluating both juniors and seeing them in action during the jamboree, the coaching staff determined that Rennaker will be the starting QB this week when White River hosts Capital.
“We have had an awesome rotation at running back so far,” Pirone said, noting that most of the carries have gone to the senior trio of Chase Campbell, Xavier Braun and Weston Harper.
The Hornets operate out of a spread offense and “we are looking to keep that attack as balanced as we can and spread the touches out as much as possible,” the coach said.
Line play will be anchored by some returning starters, including Dayton Rotondo and Huyson Emerick on the offensive side of the ball and Reice Branch and Nolan Luckow on defense. All are seniors.
Two others expected to have an impact on this year’s Hornet fortunes are senior Lyle Dolojon and junior Tyce Donovan.
White River begins the season with four Thursday night games, then settles in for five consecutive Fridays. “Both teams have to play on Thursdays, so the playing field is fair,” Pirone said of the early season schedule, brought about by an ongoing shortage of game officials.