NASELLE — While head coach Jeff Eaton has been the face and voice of Comets football for as long as anyone can remember, two others play an important role in the teams’s preparation.
Pete Riley coaches the offense and Matt Scrabeck is in charge of special teams.
The trio, colleagues at the Naselle Youth Camp, have steered Naselle as it has switched leagues more than once and transitioned from the traditional format to eight-man football, as one of the smallest schools in Washington.
“Matt and Pete do a lot,” Eaton said, a distinctive figure on the sidelines oblivious to the cold in a faded navy and gold “Army of 8” T-shirt he’s been wearing since the Comets transitioned to eight-man football in 2014.
Riley’s skillful quarterback, Ethan Lindstrom, has speedy receiving options, including junior Jimmy Strange and sophomore Joey Strange.
This season Lindstrom has connected especially well with fellow senior Fa’aoso Tutu’u. The 5-11, 195-pound running back came home from this summer’s WIAA 1B state track meet with the third-place medal for 100 meters (11.96) plus a fourth-place relay medal.
Against Quilcene in the quarterfinal, he and Lindstrom accounted for almost all of the Comets’ points with three touchdowns each, plus some two-point conversions.
Junior Warren Wirkkala crossed into the end zone on a 32-yard passing play, too. He is also the backup quarterback, often taking over from Lindstrom to gain experience in the prior 10 games once victory was just-about assured.
Trust is evident among the three coaches.
“We run things by each other, and unless I see something I feel that will really contribute, I let Pete do the offense. He has done it now for a few years,” Eaton said.
“Matt does the special teams and they were huge for us Friday. It’s one third of the game, so we need to do well at that. We work on that every day — and they have contributed all year.”
In the first quarter of the quarterfinal game, Joey Strange — who is 5-7 and weighs 130 pounds, the second-smallest on the roster — blocked a punt. This set up an immediate Comet touchdown from two yards out.
The recovery of onside kicks proved crucial for possession early in the game when the Comets built up a lead, and during the hotly contested fourth when junior Daniel Holt proved to have quick reactions, creating the opportunity for Lindstrom and Tutu’u to made yardage and burn off the clock.
The smoothness of the coaches’ contribution is evident. Chris Dorman, home stadium announcer, commends the results.
“Naselle’s eight-man football program has improved every year since its’ inception; this year is no different,” he said. “They are athletic at almost every position, in every facet of the game.”