It’s a new group, with new names and new numbers.
The seniors and all-staters — Fritz, Olaf, Lyngstad, etc. — are all gone. One of the most successful senior classes in Astoria school history has moved on.
But you can be sure the Astoria Fishermen still have that “favorite” label.
The defending Cowapa League champions always have high expectations. That’s natural, especially when they’re coming off a perfect league season and a second straight appearance in the state playoffs.
And though it’s a new-look team, there’s no reason the Fishermen can’t accomplish what they did a year ago.
Like they say in the hallowed halls of the high school, “Tradition Never Graduates.”
Last year’s all-league team was senior-dominated, with Astoria, Banks and Scappoose all losing a lot to graduation.
Still, “We hope to be right back in the mix, in the top three with Scappoose and Banks,” said Astoria coach Howard Rub, entering his 18th season at the helm. “Coach (Jeff) Roberts running the Wing-T automatically makes Seaside a better program. (Kye) Johnson is doing a good job in Tillamook, and Valley Catholic is always a question, with them being a private school.
“It’s a very competitive league. I wouldn’t be shocked to see four teams qualify for state.”
Those four would likely be Astoria, Banks, Scappoose and Seaside, in no particular order.
Astoria was the clear-cut winner last season, cruising to a 5-0 league season with wins over Valley Catholic (33-20), Seaside (50-12), Tillamook (27-7), Banks (22-6) and a season-ending victory at Scappoose, 25-22.
It may be a little closer this season, but Astoria is still the league favorite.
Specifically, Astoria lost six all-league starters on offense, including the league’s Offensive Player of the Year (quarterback Fridtjof Fremstad), and the league’s co-Defensive Player of the Year (linebacker Samboy Tuimato).
Astoria’s five all-leaguers on defense have also graduated.
“We’ve got two returning starters on offense and two on defense,” Rub said. “We are definitely in reload mode. Fortunately, the lower-level coaches have done a good job the last couple years.”
Yes, strong teams at the freshman/sophomore and junior varsity levels always seem to save the Fishermen.
Astoria has dominated the Cowapa at the junior varsity level, with just one loss the last two years.
“To be honest, it’s a credit to those coaches and players,” Rub said. “And our incoming juniors look relatively varsity ready.”
Some of those being counted on will include junior Tristan Wallace, the front-runner at quarterback to replace Fremstad.
“Tristan, K.J. Johnson, Trey (Hageman) — they all took reps (in last week’s jamboree),” Rub said. “Going into North Bend, Tristan will be the starter. We like his athleticism. We also like how K.J. throws the ball, and we like Trey all-around. It’s a good problem to have, three guys who you can count on if you need ‘em.”
At running back, “Tyler Ranta (Sr.) is one of those two returning starters on offense, so he should get the bulk of the load. We like our juniors, Connor Long and Niko Caruana, and we like the idea of converting lineman Daegan Chattick to fullback. We have some decent depth there, and some good options.”
The Fishermen lost three all-league receivers — Olaf Englund, Ryan Palek and Kyle Strange.
“We’re replacing a ton there, but Dylan Matteucci (Sr.) has looked really good. He should have a solid year. If K.J. isn’t at quarterback, he will be the split end on the left. Ian Hunt (Jr.) has looked good, and Josh Olsen (Jr.) is a good athlete, once he’s healed.”
Other names to follow at the skill positions: seniors Hageman and Kainoa Kaonohi, and juniors Tryton Matlock and Justin Villa.
All-league placekicker Andrew Schauermann returns for his senior year.
As always, the Fishermen will have a top-flight defense.
Quotable: Following last week’s jamboree, Rub said, “we made it look like football at times. And more importantly, good football.”
Prediction: League champions.
Coach: Howard Rub, 18th year
2016: 8-2 (5-0 Cowapa)
State playoffs: Defeated Gladstone (48-14), lost to Cottage Grove (21-25).
All-League losses: Fridtjof Fremstad, QB/DB (League Offensive MVP); Samboy Tuimato, LB (League co-Defensive MVP); Olaf Englund, WR; Keldon Littell, T/DL; Jared Lucore, C; Tyler Lyngstad, LB; Matthew Mather, G; Ryan Palek, WR/DB; Kyle Strange, WR; Isaac Villa, T.
All-League returners: Andrew Schauermann, Sr., K