At the football team’s annual banquet, as he lined up the offensive and defensive starters returning this season for the Hawks, it looked familiar to Schultz – too familiar.
“The same starters on offense were starters on defense,” Schultz said. “We’re trying not to feel like our backs are against the wall, but we know things have to go right for us. ... Our guys that can do special things on the field really have to come through for us.”
Fifteen players are expected to play both ways, which means depth will be an issue but has led to a commitment to conditioning.
“We had the best offseason I’ve ever seen,” said senior quarterback Adam Walker, one of 11 starters who have postseason experience.
The Hawks got a taste of the postseason in 2009, finishing in a tie for fourth place in the 2A Evergreen Conference and coming out a winner in a historic five-way tiebreaker.
Although the Hawks went on to lose in the first round to Mark Morris, 55-13, Walker said what River Ridge learned from the tiebreaker and the playoff loss should help this season.
“Drive and commitment,” Walker said. “But now, to make the playoffs, we need to change our attitude to a winning attitude.”
Leadership is expected of Walker, who got the majority of the snaps at quarterback as a junior and again has a big target in receiver Brad Wallace.
Wallace, a sophomore, had a superb freshman season as a two-way starter. Wallace was a deep threat as a receiver, and earned second-team all-Evergreen Conference honors with more than 600 yards receiving.
Schultz added the two-back formation to get Wallace in the backfield, and to get more play-action down the field.
“He competes,” Schultz said of Wallace. “The big thing is that play. No matter what it is, he wants to beat his opponent.”
A good-sized offensive line is one of the team’s strengths, with seniors David Kim (5-11, 235) at center and Tobias Williams (5-10, 245) at left guard. However, River Ridge has seen limited to no field time from Tommy Miller (6-1, 265) and Matt Floyd (6-3, 280) because of health concerns.
With the move of Elma and Hoquiam to the Class 1A SWW Evergreen and the addition of North Thurston, there will be three playoff spots – one fewer than in years past – in the seven-team EvCo, with the No. 1 team earning an automatic state berth.
“Everyone has always said River Ridge football can be great,” Walker said. “We’ve always had the athletes, but just never got it done. This year, we’re ready to get it done and do something big.”
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com
HEAD COACH: Steve Schultz, eighth season
O: Schultz, spread gun
D: Tom Grigg, 4-3
TOP PLAYERS: QB Adam Walker, sr., 5-10, 170; RB P. Wee Sanders, sr., 5-10, 215; TE/DL Jonathan Witt, sr., 6-3, 240; WR/DB Brad Wallace, so., 6-0, 175; OL David Kim, sr., 5-11, 235; DL Tommy Miller, sr., 6-1, 265; LB Tobias Williams, sr., 5-10, 245; DB Jeremy Camacho, jr., 5-9, 155; DB Javier Gonzalez, jr., 5-7, 145.
The Walker-to-Wallace show will be prominent for the Hawks. They paired up numerous times last season, when Wallace had 600-plus receiving yards as a freshman. Walker can throw the deep ball and is quick on his feet, so expect big things from the two-time ASB president. Several starters will have their hands full playing on offense and defense.