ILWACO, Wash. - Ilwaco rookie football coach Ned Bittner is no stranger to the Trico-League, having earned all-league honors as a player in the 1990s. He has a problem all high school coaches would love to have - he has more players than uniforms.
"We ordered 48 sets of gear seven weeks ago when I was hired and we have 56 kids turning out," a busy Bittner boasts. The enthusiastic team has been doing daily doubles since Aug. 20 in preparation for what could be a tough schedule for a team which has only three returning starters. To compound matters, the Fishermen play six of their first nine contests away from Peterson Field.
Ilwaco Football glance2002 record: 4-5, with three crucial Trico League losses by less than a touchdown each
Key players lost: Andy Hudkins, Kevin Brown, Dave Iverson, Chris Lemons, Tony Kangas, Justen Schaak, Matt Bonney, Matt Pickering, Dan Davis
Key returnees: Ryan Cadwell QB, Rocky Mirelez RB, Randy Wiegardt T
Outlook: Numbers are up, but the schedule is brutal with six away games. Victories will be at a premium for the relatively inexperienced FishermenBittner will employ the I-formation on offense and Ryan Cadwell will trigger the plays from his quarterback position. The talented senior played wide receiver last season, as did Rocky Mirelez, who will move to running back. Randy Wiegardt will return as a stalwart in the line at Tackle.
Nick Leonard will be Cadwell's understudy at QB. Running back prospects Bittner singled out to accompany Mirelez are Josh Gray, Caleb Holland, Ken Marroquin and Mooch Smith.
Receivers, including tight ends will be Tony Crete, Tommy Inserra, Marcus Peterson, Jarod Schaak and David Caudle.
Linemen vying for playing time with Wiegardt are Sean Clardy, Mike Patterson, Bobby Crislip, Joe Goelz, Brandon Christman, Robbie Olson and Ivan Padilla. These young men will be asked to go on both offense and defense.
Defensively the Fishermen will line up in 4-4 or 5-3 sets. Linebackers will include Sean Brady and John Wright to go with Wiegardt, Cadwell, Holland, Goelz and Marroquin.
In the defensive backfield with Mirelez, Crete, Inserra, Peterson, Schaak and Caudle will be Jeremy Cox and Zack Graff. Mirelez will handle place kicking duties. Other players in the hunt for varsity playing time are Brian Meyer, Guy Jackson, Shane Padgett, Ubaldo Sebastian, Chris Rushford, Kelsey Cutting, Kenny Bisbing and Anthony Cordero, Bittner says.
No less than 21 freshmen will play junior varsity football and a couple of the young guns may crack the varsity lineup by season's end. They include C.J. Hawkinson, Junior Talancon, Colten and Cody Chalker, Sabino Padilla, Shane Persinger, Jeff Nesbitt, Eddie Smith, Paul Blaylock and Alex Martin.
Other Fishermen freshmen include Ben Mazie, Brian Marteeny, Steve Edgar, Geoff Hylton, Anthony Wirkkala, David Casper, Ronny Kary, Randy Jamieson, Kyler Pratt, Dan Greenfield and Lenny McGrath. Bittner is assisted by Paul Jacobson, Chris Hill and Nick Lyster.
"This will be an interesting season to see who steps up to fill the 16 starting positions on offense and defense that are open. We may be able to defeat a few teams early in the season, but our final half of the Trico League schedule will be a battle," Bittner predicts.
"Our motto is 'One game at a time' and after our first three games, all on the road, we should come home a seasoned team and ready for some friendly crowd support."