RAYMOND — The process of preparation for the 2013 season began on the long bus ride home from Mount Vernon last November for the Raymond Seagulls.
The Gulls (7-3 overall last season) were clipped by LaConner, 21-7, in the state 2B quarterfinals at Mount Vernon High School in November, ending a season that saw them capture the Pacific League title.
“It was hard, because you had to balance celebrating what the seniors on the team had accomplished with the program and look forward to the next season and what you have to do to not feel that way again,” Raymond head coach Rob Clements said. “You reflect why it happened and what you have to do over the next eight months to go again.”
On Sept. 6, Raymond will start the season on the road at Class 1A Tenino.
Raymond said goodbye to five starters on offense and defense from the 2012 season, but return a nucleus that is one year older in experience and ability.
The strength of the Gulls will start at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Last year, Clements believed his offensive and defensive lines were question marks. This time around, Clements isn’t worried.
“This is the most experienced line, the best group I’ve had, since I’ve been here,” Clements said. “They know what they’re doing and are more comfortable with the offense. After watching them in camp, I was really impressed with how physical they were. Some of the teams who played us late last year saw some of that, but teams that played us early are in for a surprise.
“We will have a lot of guys get their name in the paper because of the work the line will do.”
The starting offensive line will have just one newcomer — Allan Phansisay at center — to work in. Phansisay was the starting junior varsity center last year. The rest, including two reserves, cut their teeth during last year’s playoff season.
At tackle, Matthew Boyes and Grant Carmenzind return, with James Hamilton and Michael McFadden at guard. Tight end Hunter Borden will also see plenty of time and will be a key receiving target as well.
On the bench, Tristan Lund will provide depth at tackle, while Pedro Villegas, who started last season, will return from injury after a few games.
Defensively, those linemen will make up the bulk of the Gulls’ stack defense, which will be orchestrated by new defensive coordinator Luke Abbott, a former defensive coach at Timberline.
At the offensive skill positions, halfback Rayce Newman will move behind center at quarterback, with Darol Ratsavongsy at tailback and Alex Sida at wingback. Marvin So will be a key receiving threat at wide receiver and Borden will also be a main target for Newman.
On defense, the main concern has been how to replace all-state safety Carte Bisbee. Clements has tapped Elliott Murdock, who started last season as a cornerback, to take over the roving strong safety position. Bisbee led the team last year in tackles and Murdock is seen as a solid tackler on the squad.
“Carte made up for a lot of our (defensive) mistakes and it is tough to replace an all-state player like that,” Clements said. “Elliott can do it. He’s probably our best tackler.”
Clements sees the Pacific League as a tough road this year, literally. Last year, Raymond benefited from a strong home schedule. This year, Raymond will have league matchups at North Beach and Willapa Valley, two teams Clemens sees as threats, to contend with.
“We have to be road warriors this year,” Clements said. “North Beach is fully capable of beating anyone and they have the size that will give us trouble. Willapa Vally is always tough. The challenge will be for us to beat them on the road.”
Assisting Clements this season are: Abbott (defensive coordinator, defensive line and running backs), Mike Allton (quarterbacks and outside linebackers), Kaley Hanson (tight ends and defensive line), Joe Hanson (wide receivers and cornerbacks) and junior high coaches Mike Tully and Mike Henrie.