Hired in April, Black Hills High School football coach Dominic Yarrington had plenty to do over the summer.
Of the things he had to worry about – installing a new offense and defense, organizing a staff and preparing for summer camp – building strong lines were not among them.
Black Hills enters this season with arguably the top group of returning linemen in the Class 2A Evergreen Conference. Seniors Zach Grate, Josh Moloney, Sam Zvirzdys and Kody Kearney will do much of the heavy lifting this season for the Wolves as they try to return to the postseason for the first time since 2009.
“Having the linemen we have certainly made it easier on me,” Yarrington said. “They work so hard and pick up everything so quick. We don’t have a lot of depth, but the (players) we have are very good.”
Grate, on offense, and Moloney, a defensive standout, were both first-team all-league selections last year, while Zvirzdys was a second-team offensive tackle in 2012. Kearney rounds out the quartet and is the team’s center.
“We take pride in knowing that we can be that foundation for the team to build on,” Grate said. “We’ve really embraced the role of leaders and have put in the work this summer.”
Yarrington plans to use all four linemen on both sides of the ball.
“We’ve put a lot of time into conditioning,” Moloney said. “A lot of us on the line are going both ways. We’re in the best shape in our lives and we need to be. You need to be ready for when that fourth quarter rolls around.”
The added conditioning should help the Wolves execute Yarrington’s up-tempo spread offense.
“No huddle, no mercy,” Grate said. “That’s what we want to do out there.”
The group started playing together in seventh grade before going on hiatus when Moloney moved to Rochester. He returned last year and the chemistry should only get better this season, Grate said.
“I didn’t think we’d play together again, but he came back before his junior year,” Grate said. “I knew when he came back we had the chance to do something special here. Now, we are ready to get things rolling.”
Grate (6-foot-1, 250 pounds) was the only non-senior among the five first-team all-EvCo offensive line selections last year.
“He’s a college-bound player,” Yarrington said. “He works hard in the weight room, has great technique. If he was a few inches taller, he’d be getting attention from some major colleges. He’s going to have a great season.”
Grate should benefit from squaring off every day in practice against the 6-1, 260-pound Moloney.
“We get after it,” Grate said. “Every day I’m going against Josh. He has such a quick first step and once he gets under you, it’s over. We learn from each other. After the play he’ll tell me where I made the mistake so I can work on it.”
The battles can be intense, but their friendship keeps things under control.
“We get the best out of each other,” Moloney said. “Every day it’s a contest between us. Sometimes you get the better of them, other days they get the better of you. But no matter what, we’re always helping each other learn and improve.”
The Wolves opened last season 3-1 before dropping four out of their final five games to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive season. The 4-5 record was the third straight losing season for Black Hills.
“I think we have a chip on our shoulder coming into the season,” Moloney said. “Last year was disappointing, so we worked even harder this summer.”
That effort combined with the Wolves’ talent up front has them thinking league title this season – a feat that has yet to be accomplished at Black Hills.
“Obviously, we still have a long ways to go, but my ultimate dream would be the last week of the regular season and we have two undefeated teams from Tumwater playing for the EvCo championship,” Grate said about a late-season showdown with cross-town rival Tumwater. “If I could choose anything it would be that. That would be incredible.”
ABOUT THE WOLVES
Coach: Dominic Yarrington, first year
2012: 4-5 overall, fifth place in 2A Evergreen Conference
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Yarrington (spread); returning starters – 4
Top players: OL Zach Grate, 6-1, 250, sr.; OL Josh Moloney, 6-1, 260, sr.; WR Nic Knittle, 5-9, 170, sr.; OL Kody Kearney, 5-10, 250, sr.; RB Mitch Stone, 5-10, 175, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Kelly Clark (3-3); returning starters – 6
Top players: DL Sam Zvirzdys, 6-4, 230, sr.; LB Thomas Snyder, 6-0, 215, sr.; DB Cooper Nygren, 5-8, 150, jr.; ATH Zach Joaquin, 5-9, 170, sr.
Outlook: This is a new-look Wolves team with a new head coach and a new system with the spread offense, but the wealth of experience sits on the offensive and defensive lines with seniors Zvirzdys, Grate and Moloney all wining all-league honors in 2012. The team’s senior class is small (eight). … Yarrington (54-41 career record) has won everywhere he’s coached (West Seattle, Lindbergh, Tyee, White River).
All games at 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 6: at Clover Park
Friday, Sept. 13: NORTH THURSTON
Friday, Sept. 20: BAINBRIDGE
Friday, Sept. 27: at Aberdeen
Friday, Oct. 4: RIVER RIDGE *
Friday, Oct. 11: at W.F. West *
Friday, Oct. 18: CAPITAL *
Friday, Oct. 25: at Centralia *
Friday, Nov. 1: TUMWATER * * Denotes 2A Evergreen Conference games; home games (Tumwater District Stadium) in CAPS firstname.lastname@example.org