The merry-go-round of Warrenton football coaches has come full circle, with the guy who started the whole thing back for his second ride.
After a two-year absence, Ian O’Brien returns to coach the Warriors, making it Warrenton’s third coaching change, and fourth different coach in four years.
O’Brien coached the 2014 season, then left to become athletic director at Lakeridge High School. Travis Freeman replaced O’Brien and coached one year (2015); Freeman left and Jason Edwards coached the 2016 season, and now O’Brien has returned.
It also proves what they say about coaching changes — it makes it hard to build a winning program.
From 2014-16, the Warriors are just 1-7 in league. They hit rock bottom last year, finishing 0-9 overall, 0-3 in league, forfeiting their season finale at Rainier because of a lack of players.
For the record, it was Warrenton’s first winless season since 1960 (0-8).
Now the rebuilding starts.
“I feel like we’re back to square one,” O’Brien said the first week of practice. “A lot of fundamentals, lots of teaching of things that we did that very first year we were together (2012). But they’re picking it up quickly, flying around and having fun. That’s all you can ask.”
It’s still the same goal in the four-team Lewis & Clark League: Two wins will get you to state.
And it’s a not a far-fetched idea to see the Warriors go from a winless season in ‘16 to the state playoffs in ‘17.
Clatskanie and Rainier both lost loads of senior talent, and there’s no telling what Portland Christian will have.
In addition to losing the league’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, the Columbians lost five all-leaguers on offense, six on defense. Clatskanie lost eight all-league starters.
O’Brien is hoping to return the Warriors to what they were in his last year, 2014, when Warrenton opened the season with six straight wins over non-league competition, then lost two close games at Rainier and Clatskanie in league play to finish 0-2 in league (Portland Christian had not yet joined the league).
“Rainier is the power, as always,” he said. “Clatskanie always does a good job, and (Portland Christian) gave it to us last year. Rainier is the favorite, as they should be. They’ve earned the right to be those guys at the top.”
“We’ve got a really big sophomore and freshmen group, and a smaller junior class with six or seven seniors,” O’Brien said.
And it’s the competition at each position — as well as the competition between young and older players on the roster — that could help the Warriors back sooner than expected.
“Our strength now is coming out each day and giving it all the effort that we have,” O’Brien said. “We have some big kids. And we’ll be relying on some of the older kids who have been playing the last four years. We have a big freshmen and sophomore class with great numbers.”
The line is anchored by seniors Beau Reynolds and Caden Hans, along with senior Collin Burchell and sophomore Mark Warren. The skill position players include juniors Kaleo Kapua and Gio Martinez, and sophomores Gabe Breitmeyer, Devon Jackson and Jacob Morrow. Freshman Duane Falls could be a big contributor.
Junior receiver/defensive back Dalton Knight suffered a broken wrist in Friday’s jamboree at Astoria.
“Gio and Jacob Morrow are in competition (at quarterback), and they’re doing a good job pushing one another,” O’Brien said. “It’s a healthy competition. We need our best 11 guys on the field, and regardless of who’s playing quarterback, the other one will be on the field at another position.
“The seniors are doing a great job leading, but we’re going to have a ton of sophomores who will see live action Friday nights,” he said. “It should be a great opportunity. You have to grow up quick.”
Quotable: “I think confidence is going to be essential right now,” O’Brien said. “Our kids don’t have a whole lot. They didn’t have a lot to feel confident about last year. But our style of play, the way we approach practice and are getting excited about little things and big plays, that culture will come back and they’ll start to get the taste of it.”
Coach: Ian O’Brien, 1st year (4th overall)
2016: 0-9 (0-3 L&C)
All-League losses: Ray Alcobendas, WR/DB; Devon Bowser, OL/DL
All-League returners: Gabe Breitmeyer, So., Punter; Logan Fischer, Sr., LB; Giovanni Martinez, Jr., DB