If the Oak Harbor High School football team wants to continue its success of the past 15 years, it will need to overcome the loss of a talented senior class.
The Wildcats have finished among the league leaders almost every year since the turn of the century and reached the state playoffs seven times since 2002. This fall, Oak Harbor will require a heavy reload.
Twenty-three Wildcat lettermen graduated in June from a team that went 9-2 and qualified for the state playoffs; 11 of those players earned Wesco honors.
If fact, more lettermen graduated (23) than return (19).
Not all of the talent left in the spring, however.
Among the returnees is second-team, all-Wesco linebacker senior Aaron Martinez.
Martinez recorded 104 tackles, forced four fumbles, had two sacks and intercepted a pass in 2017.
The senior fullback is also Oak Harbor’s leading returning rusher, running for 358 yards on 66 carries (5.4 yards per carry) last fall.
Also back is senior defensive back Dorian Hardin, a first-team, all-Wesco selection in 2017 and a second-team choice as a sophomore.
Other returning lettermen are seniors DeAndre Bennett, Darien Delgado, Caleb Fitzgerald, Michael Fisken, Jeffrey Gordon, Shingo Johnston, Brandon McCollough, Noah Miller and Taylor Rummell; and juniors Samuel Barajas, Jacob Bevill, Justin Campbell, Gabriel Daggett, Michael Gomez, Noah Hangen, Nathaniel Nunez and Calvin Whepley.
Key newcomers, according to coach Jay Turner, are Kevin Schuldt, Landon Cantrell, Brecken Collins and Caden Leckelt.
Not surprisingly, Turner labeled inexperience and youth as the team’s greatest weakness.
The Wildcats’ strength is its “talented group of running backs,” Turner said.
The team’s goals, according to Turner, “are to improve every week and to always compete.”
“It will be a successful season if we continue to improve and have fun,” he added.
Oak Harbor opens the season with its first game in Canada. The Wildcats face 2016 provincial champions Seaquam Secondary School of Delta, B.C., Friday, Aug. 31.
Oak Harbor’s first home game and conference opener is 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, with Marysville-Pilchuck.