Sports

Oak Harbor Wildcats begin new football era

New starting quarterback J Jordan rolls out and looks downfield to find an open pass receiver.  - Jim Woolbright/Whidbey News-Times
New starting quarterback J Jordan rolls out and looks downfield to find an open pass receiver.
— image credit: Jim Woolbright/Whidbey News-Times

A new football era has begun at Oak Harbor High School with former defensive coordinator Jay Turner taking over the head coaching duties.

Turner, a graduate of the University of Montana, directed the Wildcats’ defense under former head coach Dave Ward.

Last season Oak Harbor finished 11-1, won the WesCo North division, went undefeated on the turf at the new Wildcat Memorial Stadium and advanced to the state Class 4A quarterfinal game before losing to Bothell.

The 2008 Wildcats have a big reputation to live up to having won the Class 4A state championship in 2006, and Turner said he has a number of skill positions he needs to fill on this year’s team.

“We’re going to be a young team and we had a number of seniors who were good players graduate,” he said.

Still, Oak Harbor has a lot of talented, experienced players returning, especially in the backfield.

Junior Donovan Hunt, who was the Wildcats’ leading rusher last year, is back, and so is senior Stephen Lewis. Joining the duo is wide receiver/defensive back Rashaad Smith.

All three players have good speed and were members of the track team.

The big offensive question mark in fans’ minds is who’s going to take over the starting quarterback duties.

“James Jordan definitely will be the starter this year,” Turner said. “He played about half the time with the junior varsity last year and split time at the position with a couple of other guys. He had a real good camp at Wenatchee and has looked the best out of anybody.”

The only thing lacking on Jordan’s resume is lack of varsity experience. By the way, he goes by “J” rather than the more formal James.

Other players returning on offense are senior running back Greg Goebel and junior running back Clarence LaMont.

“LaMont will also be our backup quarterback,” Turner said.

Senior Chris Rankin is expected see a lot of playing time at wide receiver as is junior Derrick Claret.

A big plus among the returning players is senior kicker Kevin Flavin. Turner remarked it’s always nice to have your kicker back.

Along the line, senior center Bennett Richter leads the group along with senior Chris Neumiller and junior Javon Payne.

New players on the varsity roster who are expected to have a big impact in 2008 are running backs Brad Farnum and Sam Wolfe.

“Farnum has looked so good at fullback, we are going to be able to move Lewis around and play him a little at running back,” Turner said. “Wolfe has good speed and is one of the fastest guys we have out here.”

Junior Josh Higbee has been doing a good job at the running back, wide receiver and defensive back positions, and junior Nick Rouser is ready to start on the offensive and defensive lines.

“Rouser has come a long way and he is a huge kid,” Turner said. “I think he’s going to be a good one.”

At tight end, senior Jim Koepke will split time at the position with sophomore Yale Rosen.

Turner said he isn’t sure how

the WesCo North League is going to shape up this season.

“Monroe has a new head coach and they are going to be more fundamentally sound than they were last year,” he said. “Snohomish has a huge offensive line, the biggest we’ll see this season, and Lake Stevens has some really good skill players coming back.”

Many of the teams in the league are in the same position the Wildcats are — trying to replace key players lost to graduation.

“I think it’s going to be one of those years where two or three losses will still get you into the playoffs,” Turner said. “What we really like is three of our first four games are against non-league opponents and we get the chance to get our feet wet before we get into the heart of the season. We really don’t get into the heart of our season until October.”

Oak Harbor opened the season last night hosting Cascade in a non-league game.

The Bruins, a former member of the WesCo North, are now playing in the league’s south division.

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