Footballs fly Friday night

There is a hint of fall in the air and the football season is already upon us.

The high school season for the Oak Harbor Wildcats and the Coupeville Wolves begins Friday, Aug. 31.

Oak Harbor travels to Marysville-Pilchuck to meet the Tomahawks, a team they defeated 28-10 in the 2006 season opener, while Coupeville hosts La Conner in another rematch from last year’s opening game.

The Wolves had an easy time last season, dumping the young La Conner squad 48-6.

The Wildcats’ game against Marysville-Pilchuck will be a big test for the team to see how the defending class 4A state champion’s offense operates under the direction of new quarterback Johnny Encinas.

Encinas has many offensive weapons at his disposal including senior running back Chris Valencia, who led the team in rushing last season with 1,028 yards while scoring 15 touchdowns.

Senior wide receiver Rodrick Rumble, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, is also returning. In 2006, he scored 104 points and caught 40 passes good for 691 yards.

Another big offensive weapon is senior kicker Mike Johnston who is deadly anywhere inside the 40-yard line.

On defense, Oak Harbor has a number of returning players including senior middle linebacker Joe Raymond, senior defensive ends Jake Rouser and Tyler Elloitt and senior lineman Michael Bressler.

“We have a lot of speed on this team and some solid returning players,” head coach Dave Ward said. “We made some changes in player positions this season including moving Mike Bressler from tight end to center and Michael Bell to safety.

“We should be ready to go and we’re looking forward to opening the home season in the new stadium the following week.”

Coupeville will have some questions to answer its opening game having graduated a number of senior linemen.

However, the Wolves return senior James Smith who was voted second-team Cascade League All-star last year and senior running back Clay Hughes, who was the Wolves leading rusher in 2006.

Smith will have some good targets to throw to with all the Coupeville receiving corps returning in Gary Manker, Kyle Wilcox and Steven McDonald.

Alex Evans has moved to tight end, making the Wolves passing game one to contend with in 2007.

Ben Lawrence will get the starting nod at fullback and newcomer Garrett Benedict will be the Wolves’ center.

Head coach Ron Bagby said the Coupeville team was basically run-oriented in 2006 but has plans to pass the ball more this year.

“Teams when they played us knew they had to stop our running attack,” Bagby said.

The big question mark is the line.

“We are going to have to have some of our younger kids step up and play,” head coach Bagby said.

The kickoff for the Oak Harbor/Marysville-Pilchuck game is set for 7 p.m. Friday, and Mickey Clark Field will be the venue for the Wolves’ 7 p.m. matchup against La Conner.

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