3 STORYLINES TO WATCH
Can Tumwater get back to the title game?
A sour taste was left in the T-Birds mouth after a 41-7 loss to Lynden in the 2012 Class 2A state title game, and an unprecedented deep postseason run. With multiple skill-position starters back, including seven all-leaguers, Tumwater could make another deep postseason run to the Tacoma Dome, and an appearance in the team’s third state title game in four seasons.
Replacing the record holder
How do you find the next Kai Van Sickle, who set a single-season state rushing record with 2,774 yards for Capital last season? It might be tough, but the Cougars will turn to a two-back tandem -- juniors Ryan Rieta and Conner Kennedy -- as the main ballcarriers in the Cougars' new offensive scheme. Capital has made the state playoffs every year since 2008.
New faces, new places
The South Sound region has new head coaches at six area schools: Black Hills (Dominic Yarrington), Centralia (Matt Whitmire), Mary M. Knight (Matt Brklacich), Rainier (Terry Shaw), Rochester (Eric Snelson) and Yelm (Jason Ronquillo). Yarrington and Ronquillo are the only coaches who have prior head-coaching experience; Yarrington has been a head coach at West Seattle, Tyee, Lindbergh and White River, while Ronquillo previously spent six seasons at Hoquiam.
3 PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB/LB Hayden Maliska, sr., North Thurston
Might be the most completely player in the 3A Narrows League with a combination of speed, strength, and a hard-nose for the football. He’s racked up more than 200 tackles the past two years and will be a big component in the Rams’ running game whenever quarterback Ryan Mets, an Oregon State baseball commit, isn’t throwing the ball.
DB/WR Mitch Fettig, sr., Olympia
One of the top defensive backs for the Class of 2014, Olympia coach Bill Beattie calls Fettig the best, pure defensive back he’s had in 19 years as head coach at Olympia. The 6-0, 170-pound dual-threat player labeled as a “quarterback of the defense” by Beattie could be a 4A Narrows MVP candidate and is a difference-maker on both sides of the ball.
ATH Asan Neil-Evergin, sr., Timberline
Impressed Eastern Washington coaches so much at a summer all-star combine that the Eagles offered Neil-Evergin his first big-school scholarship. There’s more big things to come from the 5-9, 175-pounder, who stars at running back, safety, and special teams. A jumper in track and field, Neil-Evergin represented the United States at an international meet in Australia in July.
3 GAMES TO WATCH
Tumwater at W.F. West, 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, Bearcat Stadium
It’s too bad this game is in Week 5, but the winner should be in the driver’s seat to win the 2A 2A Evergreen Conference title. Both teams feature strong-armed quarterbacks back for their second year starting under center -- Jayden Croft (Tumwater) and Tanner Gueller (W.F West). Tumwater has won the past three league titles.
Timberline at North Thurston, 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, South Sound Stadium
Playoff positioning should be at stake when Thurston County’s longest continuous rivalry -- the Lacey Showdown -- kicks off for the 49th time since 1970. North Thurston, which has won two of the past three meetings, leads the all-time series, 27-21.
Olympia at Bellarmine, 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26, Memorial Field
Stop if you’ve heard this before: Bears and Lions face off with the 4A Narrows on the line. It’s happened two of the past three years, and it’s likely to happen again when their late-October showdown happens on grass field in Tacoma.
-- Meg Wochnick, staff writer