Encinas calls the shots

The success of an athletic team is measured by who it is rather than what it was.

Defending class 4A state football champion Oak Harbor graduated a number of players off last season’s team and will have a new look in 2007.

First and foremost, the Wildcats will have a new face at the starting quarterback position.

Senior Johnny Encinas assumes the signal calling duties after the graduation of three-year starter and Washington State Class 4A player of the year Marshall Lobbestael, but the new field general is confident in his teammates and in himself and said he is looking forward to a good season.

Standing six-foot one and weighing 185 pounds, he was Lobbestael’s backup during the 2006 championship season and was the holder on field goals and extra point attempts by kicker Mike Johnston, who is another Wildcat returning to the lineup.

“It’s going to be awesome this season with a new stadium, it’s going to be great,” Encinas said.

The oldest of two brothers, Encinas said he has lived in Oak Harbor all his life.

“I was born in Anacortes and have been here ever since,” he said. “I’ve lived here every day for 17 years, well, 18 in another couple of days.”

Not a stranger to signal calling, Encinas was the starting catcher for the Wildcats’ varsity baseball team and also a starter for the AA Legion team — when not attending summer football camps.

Oak Harbor head coach Dave Ward said he has full confidence in his new starting quarterback.

“Johnny looks real smooth at quarterback and he knows the offense well,” Ward said. “He has been throwing some nice passes in practice.”

The Wildcats began workouts on Wednesday and the team is currently using War Memorial Field as a practice facility.

Ward said they will be able to practice on the artificial surface at the new Wildcat Memorial Stadium beginning next week.

Encinas said he has set several personal goals for himself this season.

“I want to minimize the interceptions,” he said. “As long as we don’t beat ourselves, we have a good chance to stay in a lot of games. I’ll try and take that on my shoulders.”

The well-spoken dark haired senior athlete has big hands and strong wrists, along with a strong right arm — likely from his time as a baseball catcher, and should have no problem hanging on to the football and throwing passes. The passing attack is a major part of Oak Harbor’s offensive game plan.

Being a team leader is another of his major goals.

“This year I just want to be a leader. I have to take over the leadership role because that was one thing Marshall was really good at,” Encinas said.

Having a good group of supporting players is something for which Encinas is thankful.

“We’ve got Rodrick Rumble and Michael Bell coming back at wide receivers. We also have a new kid, Jordan Young, who is also a wide receiver, and he’s been looking real good,” he said.

Encinas added that Jake Rouser is back at tight end and Chris Valencia is returning at running back. “

“We’ve got all our weapons and everything and as long as our line comes together and plays hard, we are going to be fine,” he said.

Encinas said the Wildcats also return a number of players on the defensive side of the ball.

“We have most of our guys back so we’ll be all right there, too,” he said.

Oak Harbor opens the season Aug. 31 at Marysville-Pilchuck and plays its first game at the new Wildcat Memorial Stadium Friday, Sept. 7, against Arlington.

“It’s going to be fun this season. We’ve got a lot of good guys and as long as we stay together, we’ll be all right,” Encinas said.

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