WISHKAH — The power of a two-school combine is to preserve and keep programs struggling to field teams afloat. This is especially true for the Twin Valley combine of Wishkah and Lake Quinault high schools.
The Wolfpack will field 19 players — 11 from Lake Quinault and eight from Wishkah — who are melding into an eight-man football team.
Twin Valley will debut in football on Friday, Sept. 4 at Jewell, Ore., and will kickoff at home one week later at Wishkah’s Addison Field against Lopez Island. The combine will split its four home games between Wishkah and Lake Quinault.
“It would have been tough to have a team without combining,” Twin Valley head coach Mike Mitchell said. Mitchell coached at Wishkah last season.
“It is a good thing for the kids. They get to keep playing and the programs stay alive. It has been smooth. They all work hard and love the game. In the past, we’ve poured over game film in order to beat them. Now, we’re pouring over game film in order to incorporate them into the system. They’re all picking it up pretty well.”
The Wolfpack are currently evaluating players and how they’ll fit together on the field. Thirteen players from both schools are returning varsity veterans, which is good and bad — good for depth, bad for who’ll start.
From Wishkah, Jace Anderson will take over at quarterback, a position shared with graduated all-state utility player Keigan Gardiner last season. Also returning for the Wolfpack from Wishkah are center Jacob Gardiner, tight ends Josiah Olson and Robert Rodriguez, tailback Will Fultz and offensive lineman Tyler Samuelson.
From Lake Quinault, senior speedster Kobe Kalama is returning, but is on the sideline with a leg injury. His status will be evaluated before the trip to Jewell.
Also returning for the Wolfpack from Lake Quinault are tight end Julio Silva, fullback Enrique Arreguin, offensive/defensive linemen Miguel Verregas, Chayton Johnson and Jeff Diggle and wide receiver/utility player Dylan Lines.
“We have more depth, that is for sure,” Mitchell said. “These guys will get more breaks and be fresher this season. Last year (with Wishkah), with the kids we had, we had been coaching them since Pop Warner. they played together for 10 years and knew each other. The challenge with these guys is getting it all together. Right now, it is the basics.”
Without a league as a District IV 1B independent, Twin Valley’s schedule is packed from start to finish. Mitchell pointed to the first four weeks of the schedule — at Jewell, Ore., host Lopez Island, at Lyle/Wishram and host Evergreen Lutheran — as pivotal games to start.
Twin Valley will take on the Washington State School for the Deaf, Oakville, Naselle and Mary M. Knight in the second half of the season.
“We’re not going to underestimate anyone,” Mitchell added. “Those (early) games will be tough. Naselle, in its first year in eight-man football, is an unknown, but have always had quality coaching.”
Assisting Mitchell this season are Dale Steinhauer, Dylan Mitchell and Eric Gardiner.