TAHOLAH — Last year, Taholah relied on its defense to set up its run-first, run-often offense en route to a third-place finish in the Pacific Coast Football Association.
This year, the Chitwhins will still rely on their defense, but will have more options to play with offensively.
“We normally try to be in a Power-I formation, but with the personnel we have now, we’d like to change that strategy a bit,” Taholah head coach Donald Waugh said. “We want to be more versatile this year, depending upon our opponent.”
Taholah (4-3, 5-4) opens the season at home against reigning state 1B champion Neah Bay on Aug. 31.
After a one-year hiatus, senior quarterback Justin Curleybear returned to the Chitwhins to regain his spot under center. Curleybear, along with last year’s starter, freshman Jeff Capoeman, will switch off duties as the signal-caller.
Last year, Capoeman led the rushing attack with returning running back Wade Purdy. This year, Capoeman and Curleybearwill have two wide receivers to throw to — Austin Rojas and Jimmy Smith-Kramer.
“There wasn’t a lot of passing last year; we were a running team,” Waugh said. “Now with Kramer-Smith and Rojas, it’ll give us a chance to spread out and pass when the situation is right. Smith-Kramer didn’t get too many chances to catch passes last year. We only averaged 12 passes a game last year, but would like to throw 15-20 times this year.”
On the offensive line, Taholah has two spots filled with veterans Jonathan Law and Robert Northrup. The Chitwhins had Hoquiam senior transfer Joseph Winn in training camp, but Winn injured his knee during a recent practice and may miss a significant portion of the season, according to Waugh.
Waugh isn’t too worried about his defensive unit. Law and Northrup, along with Keanu Curleybear, Justin’s younger brother, will man the line. Justin Curleybear, Purdy and Cleve Jackson will man the linebacker corps and Jeff Capoeman will anchor the secondary, with either Kramer-Smith and Rojas joining him.
“Right now, we’re limited to a core group of kids and we can’t afford any injuries,” Waugh said. “The kids we have (20 of them, 16 in camp) have the potential to do something. The weightlifting program here has done significant good things for the kids. Some kids who hadn’t shown anything in the past are now here because of it.”
In league, Taholah will have a stacked schedule to contend with. With non-league encounters against Neah Bay and rival Wishkah at home, along with a trip to Lummi, the first three weeks of the schedule will show what the Chitwhins are made of. Taholah will also have a non-league road trip at King’s Way Christian (a Class 1A school playing a non-state qualifying eight-man schedule) later in the season.
As for title contenders, Waugh sees Wishkah and Mary M. Knight as two teams Taholah will have to come out strong against, as well as Lyle.
“We have a tough league and we can’t look past that,” Waugh said. “We’re not getting too many games off this year.”
Assisting Waugh this season will be Shaun Straka, Jeff Capoeman and William James.