WESTPORT — A former Cascade of Leavenworth player who has coached youth football in Illinois and Georgia, first-year Ocosta coach Brad Kesterson is largely unfamiliar with the Pacific League.
He is, however, setting ambitious goals for the Wildcats this season.
“I would like to see us make the playoffs this year,” Kesterson said. “I think that’s a realistic goal. We’ve got 10 games this year and I would love to see us get six or seven wins out of that.”
If the Wildcats can meet Kesterson’s playoff objective, they would make their first state appearance since 1980. They have played in a couple of state-qualifying games since then.
Ocosta, 4-6 last year, does have some positives as it prepares for its season opener Sept. 7 at home against Concrete. A 25-player roster is large by recent Wildcat standards. It includes a slew of sophomores, giving the Westport club basis for future optimism.
Kesterson likes what he he is seeing thus far.
“We’ve got size and their attitude is good,” he said. “I’m a little bit concerned about speed.”
The Wildcats return three players who earned league honorable mention recognition last season.
One of those, senior Alex Herrera, shifts from running back to quarterback this season.
Senior James Benn is back at tackle, while powerful junior Caleb Tackett — a fine all-around athlete — will operate at tight end.
Among other distinctions, the Wildcats may start two sets of brothers this season. Senior Isaiah Obermire and his sophomore sibling Elijah are both running backs.
Senior Brian Hart returns at fullback, while his freshman brother Matthew is ticketed for a start at wide receiver.
Other projected offensive starters include junior Connor Maben at running back, sophomore Tom Perrett at tackle, junior George Prigmore and freshman Derek Thomas at the guard slots and sophomore Mitchell Harnden at center.
Operating from a wing-T formation, the Wildcats likely will keep the ball on the ground more often than not.
“We’ll spread the field and (use) a lot of misdirection,” Kesterson said.
Defensive regulars include Benn, Harnden and seniors Chanz Berkley and David Cunningham up front, Isaiah Obermire, Tackett and Brian Hart at linebacker and Herrera, Maben, Elijah Obermire and senior Edgar Aragon in the secondary.
The Wildcats also boast a couple of transfers, defensive back Ryan Short from Medford, Ore., and lineman Charlie Carrera from Tonasket. Short, however, will likely not be eligible for the season opener due to a shortage of turnouts.
Ocosta’s staff includes defensive coordinator Cameron Ness, line coach Russ Roehl and volunteer assistant Keith Beck.