Returning starters scarce for Bearcats

W.F. West: Bearcats return 3 starters from last year’s squad that reached 2A semifinals

mwochnick@theolympian.comAugust 27, 2012 

Never before has coach Bob Wollan faced a challenge like he has with his current W.F. West football team.

He can count on one hand the number of returning players who were starters in 2011 for the best season in school history. The Bearcats advanced to the 2A state semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Lynden.

That number is three: Keylen Steen, Billy Tufts and Michael Forgione, all of whom are now seniors.

“That’s not an exaggeration,” Wollan said. “It will be, without a doubt, the least returning kids we’ve ever had.”

One positive for the Bearcats is the quarterback situation will stay in the Gueller family.

Graduated Mitch Gueller, who was drafted No. 54 overall in June’s baseball draft and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, is being replaced by younger brother Tanner.

Just because Tanner Gueller will be a first-time starter, doesn’t mean he isn’t experienced. Tanner Gueller played quarterback last season when Mitch Gueller moved to tailback or wide receiver for a handful of plays.

“It’s an exciting time for him and for us, too,” Wollan said. “He played against good teams. He won’t be overwhelmed.”

As for the Bearcats’ identity with so many question marks, that’s to be determined.

Steen, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound two-way starter at running back and middle linebacker is described by Wollan as “the heart and soul of what we do.”

One thing that likely isn’t a question mark is defense, a strength since Wollan arrived from Pullman in 2006.

“I think our offense is a work in progress,” Wollan said. “It took 10 games to figure out where we were last year. It could take us a while this year.”

Home games in CAPS. All games at 7 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 31: PORT ANGELES

Friday, Sept. 7: PENDLETON (Ore.)

Saturday, Sept. 15: Lake City (Idaho) at Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Idaho, 5 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 21: COLUMBIA RIVER

Friday, Sept. 28: Tumwater *

Friday, Oct. 5: Black Hills *

Friday, Oct. 12: RIVER RIDGE *

Friday, Oct. 19: CAPITAL *

Friday, Oct. 26: Centralia * About the Bearcats

Coach: Bob Wollan, seventh year

2011 record: 10-3, 3rd in league; lost in 2A semifinals.

Offense: Coordinator (set) - Bob Wollan (spread). Returning starters - 3. Top players - WR Michael Forgione, 6-0, 165, sr.; QB Tanner Gueller, 6-2, 210, jr.; RB Keylen Steen, 5-9, 185, sr. OL Billy Tufts, 5-11, 185, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) - Tim Cabe (multiple). Returning starters - 1. Top players - DL Bowe McKay, 6-2, 190, jr.; LB Keylen Steen, 5-9, 185, sr.

Outlook: While other higher-seeded EvCo teams bowed out of last year’s postseason, it was the third-place Bearcats who made it to the Tacoma Dome, losing to Lynden in the 2A semifinals. Gone is quarterback Mitch Gueller, now in professional baseball. Tanner Gueller, his younger brother, moves in from receiver. He saw limited snaps at quarterback in 2011. * 2A Evergreen Conference game mwochnick@theolympian.com

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