SATURDAY: Ocosta and Lake Quinault
RAYMOND — The buzz around the Pacific League over the offseason has been the emergence of Raymond’s football program as a contender for the league title this fall.
For second-year head coach Rob Clements, he’s heard all of the talk.
But for him and the Gulls, he’s got one question before he can address whether or not they’re contenders for the league title — can they win a close game?
“If you look at us last year, you’ll see that we either won by 30 or lost,” Clements said. “There was no middle ground. For us, can we win the dogfight, the close game? The best teams come out on top. This is an adversity sport.
“I can understand why we’re picked as league favorites,” Clements added, “but we need to take steps before putting that (pressure) on the boys. We need to prove things in the early games. If we take that next step, we’ll be tough.”
On Aug. 31, Raymond will open the season at home against Class 1A Tenino.
The Gulls’ strength will come from their skill players.
The team’s speed will also come from the same players, an attribute that has league defensive coordinators working on how to contain them.
Quarterback Andrew Hamilton will lead the West Coast Wing-T offense, with Carte Bisbee returning as Hamilton’s main aerial threat. H-backs Marcus Lundy and Alec Oatfield will line up on the wings, while speedy Darol Ratsavongsy and Alex Sida will tote the football at tailback.
All six players are capable big-play breakers, according to Clements, but the real test of the offense will come from a young, yet capable offensive line.
Senior center Josh Camenzind takes over the heart of the line from his graduated cousin, Dane, while Dane’s younger brother, junior Grant, is known as “Swiss Army” for his versatility to play all five spots on the line.
Sophomore Michael McFadden and freshman James Hamilton, Andrew’s younger brother, will occupy the line as guards and sophomore Mathew Boyes will work opposite Grant Camenzind at tackle.
“We’re really strong in the backfield and at receiver, but we’re only going to be as good as they (our offensive line) are this season,” Clements said.
“We have the athletes and depth at key positions. Defensively, I’m not worried. Offensively, it is up to (the offensive linemen). I’ll give them all of the credit if we’re moving the ball. If they continue to progress the way they have been, I’ll be happy with the results.”
Defensively, Clements noted that he and his coaching staff met with Terry Jensen and Montesano’s coaching staff for tips and defensive help. He thanked Jensen and his staff for meeting with them.
“Their staff is awesome,” Clements said. “What they’ve done defensively is great. If we can come anywhere close to that, we’ll be very happy. We’re going to get our best players on the field (defensively), get them in space to bring pressure and just play football.”
Clements sees Valley, Naselle and North Beach, along with Raymond, at the top of the league, which “won’t be a walk-through.” “On their best night, any of those four teams can’t be beat. The good thing for us is that we have all three of those teams at home.”
Helping Clements this season are former Raymond head coach Tim Newbill (defensive coordinator, linemen), Kyle Maneman (running backs and outside linebackers), Luke Abbott (receivers, corners, special teams) and Kaley Hanson (tight ends/assistant defensive coordinator). Junior high head coach Mike Tully also helps out.