TAHOLAH — Taholah football will embark on an eight-man/1B independent schedule this season with a much smaller and less experienced group than last season.
The Chitwhins, who moved up as far as the state 1B quarterfinals last season, return just three starters and a team filled with freshmen and first-year players this season.
On Friday, Taholah (7-4 overall) are scheduled to travel north to take on top-ranked Neah Bay.
“This is most definitely a rebuilding year for us,” Taholah head coach Donald Waugh said. “We have a lot of freshmen and a lot of players who haven’t stepped onto a football field before. We’re starting fresh again.”
Returning this season will be junior quarterback Keanu Curleybear and senior running backs Wade Purdy and Jon Jackson. Purdy and Curleybear were pivotal on offense last season, with Curleybear entering into the quarterback spot early in the season after injuries.
Jackson is listed as a fullback and middle linebacker, but he has seen plenty of time on the offensive and defensive lines, where the Chitwhins are hurting for depth. With just 14 players in the program, depth at a lot of positions are a concern.
For Waugh, the biggest concern is on the line.
“Right now, the only way we’re going to get those guys breaks is to go 3-4 fronts on defense,” Waugh said. “We do have some playmakers in Curleybear, Purdy and Jackson. Offensively, we can get some points on the board. Defensively, we’re going to have our work cut out. We’re going to need improvement every day.
“It is a teaching year,” Waugh added. “The upperclassmen have big roles to play. For the kids who haven’t been on the field before, they’ll be called upon as well for four quarters. With our starting core, we have a chance to compete. With the program we run, it is about execution. You have to execute the play in order to get the yardage we need from that play. That is what we’re focusing on and improving every day.”
As of Wednesday, Taholah’s schedule has just six games on it, including Friday’s game with Neah Bay. Waugh noted that they are looking to add 2-3 more games to get to eight games and playoff eligibility.