MACLEOD PAPPIDAS | THE DAILY WORLD
Elma quarterback Layne Sutten passes over lineman Austin Black, left, to receiver Brian Maslen during practice last week.
ELMA — One virtual certainty is that Elma football opponents will face an aerial assault this season.
Utilizing a spread offense, the Eagles expect to pass more often than not this year.
They’ll open the season Friday with a non-leaguer at home against Hockinson.
The spread isn’t exactly a new wrinkle in Elma football. The Eagles used a no-huddle spread for much of last season.
They were seemingly destined for a postseason berth when multiple suspensions in October depleted their roster, The Eagles lost their final three regular-season games and eventually a tiebreaker playoff to Forks that determined the final playoff-eligible slot.
Veteran Elma coach Jim Hill wants to put that experience behind him.
“Last year was absolutely the worst year in my entire career. We’ve tried to flush that,” he said.
This year’s squad, according to Hill, has the personnel to make the spread effective. While heavily pass-oriented, Elma will attempt to maintain at least the threat of a run to keep defenses honest.
“We’re going to spread (defenses) and try to throw the ball on every down,” he said. “If they want to take that away, we’ll take what they give us.
“We’re pretty quick,” Hill added. “We’ve got big-play capabilities, we hope they pan out. Even defensively, we’re fairly quick.”
Senior Layne Sutten, who took over the controls late last season, returns at quarterback and has a strong enough arm to provide a deep threat.
He’ll be throwing to a receiving corps that includes senior Erick Atkins and Alex Carillo, juniors Todd Swinhart and Kevin Farr and freshman Steven Persell. Swinhart earned all-Evergreen 1A League honorable mention recognition last year.
Brian Maslen, another returning starter, will likely man the lone running back’s position.
The Eagles are relatively young up front, with three underclassmen projected as starters.
They include juniors Ricky Escalante and Logan Hieronymus at guard and tackle, respectively, and sophomore Joe Wilson at the other guard.
Senior Austin Black is expected to open at center, with senior Cristian Gutierrez at the other tackle.
Most of Elma’s starters will likely go both ways.
Junior Brek McGaughy will join Black, Wilson and Hieronymus in the defense line. Gutierrez, Escalante and junior Dalton House are probable starters at linebacker, with Maslen, Swinhart, Sutten and Carillo currently forming the secondary.
Hill is generally encouraged by what he sees in turnouts.
“We’ve gotten better each day,” he said. “We’ve got to fight a little bit more, but we’ve got the capability of having a good football team.”
He foresees the Eagles locked with Montesano, Hoquiam, Tenino and Forks in a five-way battle for the Evergreen 1A League’s four playoff-eligible spots.
Former Aberdeen head coach Ron Clark, an Elma High alum, returns to the staff as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. Other Eagle assistants include Bryan Schneider, Todd Baun, Jason Dick, Ben Blankenship and Richard Ramirez.