Some things have changed on the Raymond football front over the past year. The Seagulls’ status as the Pacific League favorite is not among them.
With seven returning offensive starters from a team that earned a second straight league championship en route to a state Class 2B semifinal berth last year, the Gulls appear poised for another playoff run this season. They possess an experienced offensive line and considerable speed in the backfield.
The Gulls will be operating under a new head coach. Luke Abbott, the team’s defensive coordinator last year, was promoted to the top spot following the resignation of Rob Clements, now the offensive line coach at the University of Puget Sound.
The Pacific League makeup has also changed. Rainier, Life Christian, Ilwaco, Tacoma Baptist and Chief Leschi have joined the circuit with Willapa Valley (which has formed a Central League combine with Pe Ell in football) departing.
That means Raymond’s schedule will consist entirely of league games. The Gulls will open the season Sept. 6 against Life Christian at Lakewood’s Harry Lang Stadium.
The new league alignment is one unknown. Another is Raymond’s relatively small roster size that could leave the Gulls shy on depth.
All-league offensive lineman Michael McFadden has been dealing with a bad back while explosive running back/defensive back Marvin So has been battling a foot injury.
“Staying healthy is one of my largest concerns,” Abbott conceded.
Otherwise, the first-year head coach is cautiously optimistic.
“I think we have a good opportunity to do some good things, with the talent we have returning,” Abbott said. “I’m (also) excited about the young guys we have coming up. It’s definitely a wild-card season, just taking it as we go. I do have high expectations for our team. Our goal is to be playing in November.”
In Rayce Newman, Raymond might boast the fastest quarterback in the state’s 2B ranks. The senior won the state 200-meter run last year in helping the Gulls capture the state boys track championship.
While the running backs handled most of the ball-carrying in a ground-oriented offense last year, Newman may see more action as both a runner and thrower this season.
“I definitely want to utilize our quarterback,” Abbott said. “(The offense) we have in place is somewhat similar to last year, but I do want to develop some threat of a passing game and I think we have the athletes to do that.”
Junior Elliott Murdock will step in at tailback. Sophomore Jace Duckworth and junior Terry Broten will likely man the other two backfield spots until So becomes healthy.
Jayce Freeman, another talented junior, and sophomore Kason Koski are the top two receiver candidates, with Koski also backing up Newman at quarterback. Junior Shiloh Borden, sophomore Luke Hamilton and freshman Ricky Robinett are waging a close battle at tight end.
McFadden, seniors Alan Phansisay, Matthew Boyes and Pedro Villegas and junior James Hamilton form the talented, seasoned offensive line. Juniors George Crow and Travis Harvill and senior Shyler Newberg also figure into the mix up front.
James Hamilton, an all-state middle linebacker last year, leads Raymond’s defensive unit. Other probable defensive regulars include Boyes, Phansisay, Harvill, Villegas, McFadden and Crow up front, Murdock, Koski, Newman, Broten and Luke Hamilton at the other linebacker slots and So, Freeman and Duckworth in the secondary.
Abbott sees North Beach, Rainier and Life Christian as his team’s top challengers.
Mike Allton, Mike Tully, Scott Londino and brothers Kaley and Joe Hanson will assist Abbott.