PORT ANGELES — The Class 1B football teams have dealt with the same type of scheduling headaches and COVID-19 precautions as their larger North Olympic Peninsula brethren, but did successfully open the season with six-man contests last weekend.
Quilcene will switch back to its normal eight-man format going forward, but Crescent will continue to play a six-man schedule for this season and Clallam Bay, the state’s biggest proponent for adding a six-man classification, will hope to convince more small schools at risk of losing out on football to transition to the six-man game.
Neah Bay, on still-closed Makah tribal lands, has yet to begin preparations for the season and will likely stay on the sidelines until next fall.
Head coach: Trey Beathard (fifth season, 34-7)
2019 record: 8-2 (5-0), Evergreen League champs for fourth straight season. Lost to Naselle in state playoffs.
Key returning players: Zak Budnek (sr., TE/DL); Bishop Budnek (jr., RB/LB); Deakon Budnek (so., OL/DL); Chase Newman (sr., QB/FB/LB/DB); Ashton Johnston (jr., RB/DE); Kevin Alejo (jr., WR/LB); Cash Thacker (so,, OL/LB); Jakob Miller (jr., OL/DL); Nathan Kieffer (jr., QB/DB).
Key newcomers: Dominick Smith (fr.,TE/DE); Isaiah Reimann (so., QB/WR/DB); Max Budnek (8th grade OL/DL).
Outlook: Beathard said this group of Rangers was one he and his coaching staff, including assistant coach Byron Wilson, who is in his 50th year coaching prep football, had been eyeing for great things.
“For the last few years, I was thinking that this year would be a really good year for us,” Beathard said. “We do have some talented, experienced kids coming back.”
The Rangers return Zak Budnek, the SeaTac League MVP last season, and younger brother Bishop, who ran for around 2,000 yards and scored 30-plus touchdowns.
“Bishop is a big, strong back who follows his reads. He’s not shifty, but he makes the right cut every time,” Beathard said.
Quilcene isn’t all Budneks, as Chase Newman will offer another experienced runner in the backfield and Ashton Johnston also is expected to get some carries.
“We will be pretty good at running the football again,” Beathard said.
Nathan Kieffer, a 6-foot-5 athlete, takes over at quarterback.
Zak Budnek will anchor the defensive line with help from Cash Thacker and Johnston.
“We have some strong kids on our lines. Those are a strength for us as well,” Beathard said.
Getting his players into game shape will be an early challenge.
“Some kids lifted and ran at home and others didn’t do too much, but the kids are thrilled to play, and we are so happy to be out there with them,” Beathard said.
Head coach: Brian Shimko
2019 record: 5-6 (3-3 in 1B Northwest League). Lost to Naselle in Quad-District Playoffs.
Key returning players: Wyatt Lee (jr., RB/LB); Brenten Dalton (so.,WR/TE/LB); Darren Lee (sr., C/NG); Jimmy Bruch (sr., RB/DB); Brendan Bergstrom (sr.; Jayden Tejano (jr., DE); Weston Hart (so., QB/DB).
Key newcomers: Austin Sage (jr., TE).
Outlook: The Loggers return a number of experienced players at important positions, including Wyatt Lee, Darren Lee, Bruch and Dalton as they learn the six-man game this season.
“We’ve been working on six-man because initially the schedule had Wishkah Valley, Mary M. Knight and Lake Quinault, but only Mary M. Knight has a team,” Crescent coach Brian Shimko said. “Neah Bay is still locked down and nobody wanted to travel outside the region so we jumped on as many six-man games as possible.
“We just want to play a game every weekend if we can.”
Every player is eligible to receive passes in six-man football, which is also played on a smaller 80-yard-long by 40-yard wide field.
“We have some real height on the team and everybody is eligible, so we might put guys like Austin Sage or Bergstrom or Dalton at center because they are tall,” Shimko said.
Clallam Bay Bruins
Head coach: Aaron Burdette
2019 record: 6-0 in six-man games.
Key returning players: Mauricio Lopez, Jeremiah Signor, Michael Littleton (RB/LB), Levi Duncan (RB/LB), Trey Haines, Jackson Flores (C/DL).
Key newcomers: Tanner Buskeness. Burdette described the 6-foot, 200-pound Buskeness, a transfer from the Tacoma area, as “a load.” “He’s a natural football player, can block and tackle really well, and we think he’s really going to be a contributor.”
Outlook: Burdette said his team suffered heavy losses to graduation, so it’s a less-experienced squad this time out.
“It’s a different team from last year, where we had so much senior experience, but they have all stepped up really well and are really enjoying the opportunity to play football,” Burdette said.
“It’s kind of like last season, we kind of consider ourselves the ambassadors of six-man football in the state. We want more six-man football teams, we want a full league and a championship some day. Maybe we can show schools that are on the verge of dropping eight-man football that there is an alternative. And six-man, it’s a more fun game.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]