OYEHUT — Following a couple years of steady progress, North Beach is looking to reach the next level of football accomplishment this season.
Big up front and quick in the backfield, the Hyaks are considered one of the favorites in the expanded Pacific League. They are seeking to earn the school’s first state playoff berth since 2004 — and only their second of the 21st century.
The Hyaks nearly pulled off that feat during last year’s 7-3 campaign. After being state-ranked for much of the season, however, they dropped a 20-14 decision to Toutle Lake in a state-qualifying district crossover game.
Although graduating a fair share of standouts from that club, North Beach has reloaded quickly. Its 34-player roster is loaded with returning letterwinners, including eight seniors whom head coach Todd Bridge has credited with strong leadership.
The Hyaks open their season Sept. 5 at Ilwaco.
As usual, the Hyaks have plenty of size, with 260-pound all-Pacific League guard Caleb Bridge leading an experienced line that also includes junior Alex Horn at center, junior Tim Poplin at the other guard and senior Daniel Fruh (the state Class Class B heavyweight wrestling champion) and sophomore Seth Bridge at tackles.
Jonny Law, a Taholah standout as a freshman, has transferred to North Beach after spending last year at Forks and Quileute Tribal and will also be available in the offensive line.
Unlike previous seasons, however, the Hyaks won’t be exclusively reliant on overpowering their opponents. They will modify their traditional double wing offense to accommodate some sweeps and passes.
“We’re spreading the field a little more,” Coach Bridge noted. “We’ve got some guys who can catch and we want to get the ball out to them in the open field.”
Bridge, in fact, counts speed among his team’s assets. Their roster includes three members (Skyler Wells, Alex McAra and Saul Gonzalez) of a 4x100-meter relay team that placed fifth at the state 2B track meet last spring. Senior running back Cameron Keller is also a sprinter in track.
“We haven’t had those kind of wheels in the past,” Bridge said. “That’s a testament to the kids and what they’re doing in the off-season.”
Keller, Wells and Gonzalez are part of a deep running-back corps that also includes seniors Jordan Chong and Elijah Towery. Senior Gabe Hernandez returns at wide receiver, with senior Steven Fry converting from split end to tight end.
McAra, a junior who was one of the team’s running backs last year, shifts to quarterback— a position he is playing for the first time.
“Another thing that will determine how long we play (this season) is how quickly Alex McAra matures at quarterback,” Bridge acknowledged. “Everything we’ve seen so far is very bright.”
Projected defensive starters include some combination of Towery, Horn and Keller as ends, Caleb Bridge and Fruh as tackles, Law, Gonzalez, Wells and sophomore Dawson Bastian as linebackers and Hernandez, Chong and Fry in the secondary.
Bridge sees Raymond, Rainier and possibly Life Christian as the top Pacific League teams.
Hugh Wyatt, James Vogler and Derek Archer return as Bridge’s assistants.