CHEHALIS – Bob Wollan sees no reason to expect much different this year than in most recent years when it comes to the Evergreen 2A Conference and his W.F. West Bearcats’ place in it.
Which is to say: right in the middle of things in a football conference many think is the best in all of Washington’s Class 2A.
“Expectations are a good thing,” said Wollan, who is entering his eighth season as head coach. “It’s a credit to our kids. There’s a tradition being created here.
“Expectations create a work ethic that can get you through the lean years.”
The Bearcats (6-4 last season) appear to have important pieces in place as they seek to continue the winning tradition in 2013: strong senior leadership, returning talent at the skill positions, experience on the offensive line and a deep, savvy defensive secondary .
“It’s a fun group of seniors,” Wollan said. “They put a lot of time into football, and I know they have high expectations for themselves.”
Anticipation runs high in Chehalis for the senior season of quarterback Tanner Gueller, who has the makings to be one of the best in the state.
At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Gueller threw for more than 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, completing 55 percent of his passes, and was named to the All-Evergreen Conference first team.
“Tanner is a good one,” Wollan said. “He can make all the throws, and he’s a pretty good runner for a big guy.”
The next step in Gueller’s maturation, Wollan said, will be his ability to see and recognize what’s going on around him as he guides the Bearcats’ diversified attack.
“He’s definitely put the time in to evolve his game,” Wollan said. “We’re excited to see how it looks on Friday nights.”
Wollan’s multiple-set offense varies between three backs, no backs, and variations between. Dylan Verderico (5-foot-11, 205 pounds), who ran for more than 400 yards last season and earned second-team All-EvCo honors, should be a staple in the backfield.
Gueller will have experienced targets in wideouts Alex Cox, Brian Moon and Toby Johnson.
Tight end Bowe McKay can also catch the ball, Wollan said, and he is one of a quartet of offensive linemen – along with left tackle Anthony Painter, left guard Nick Lund and right guard Dakota White – who played a lot of downs for the Bearcats last season.
They’re not big guys up front, typical for his teams, Wollan said, but “they’re smart kids, and hopefully a year’s worth of experience will pay dividends for them.”
The strength of the defense is the secondary, where Cox and Johnson were first-team All-EvCo last season. Fellow wideout Moon adds good quality depth, and Wollan said he’s excited to watch the emergence of rangy safety Nathan Sherfey.
On the defensive line, graduation losses hit hard, and Wollan is seeing some good battles to fill those spots.
The Bearcats open the season Sept. 6 at Port Angeles, then return home the following week to entertain Archbishop Murphy.
Later in the season, games against Tumwater (Oct. 4) and Capital (Oct. 25) could be telling as EvCo teams maneuver for spots in the postseason.
But there is danger on the schedule every week, Wollan said. For instance, River Ridge has “a nice group of underclassmen they’re excited about.” Also, Centralia has “a new coach and good skill kids.”
Wollan doesn’t disagree with people who call the Evergreen the best 2A conference in the state.
“It’s proven out, as far as the depth of the league and our league’s record in the postseason,” he said.
As for the Bearcats, he said: “Stay healthy, keep improving, and see where that gets us.”
About the Bearcats
Coach: Bob Wollan, eighth year
2012: 6-4, third in 2A Evergreen Conference; lost in 2A districts.
Offense: Coordinator (set) — Wollan (multiple); returning starters – 8.
Top players: QB Tanner Gueller, 6-3, 225, sr.; WR Bryan Moon 5-10, 170, sr; WR Alex Cox 5-8, 165, sr.; RB Dylan Verderico 5-10, 205, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) — Tim Cabe (5-2); returning starters – 5.
Top players: DL Zach Braun 5-10, 175, sr.; DB Toby Johnson 5-9, 165; sr.; DL Bowe McKay 6-3, 190, sr.
Outlook: The Bearcats’ spread attack is in good hands with Gueller, who should break through to have a 2,000-yard passing season. Cox and Moon are reliable downfield targets, too. W.F. West has it tough early by traveling a combined 630 miles (Port Angeles, Columbia River and Astoria, Ore.) for three road games. Wollan is seven wins away from career win No. 150.
All games at 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 6 — at Port Angeles
Friday, Sept. 13 — ARCHBISHOP MURPHY
Friday, Sept. 20 — at Columbia River
Friday, Sept. 27 — at Astoria (Ore.)
Friday, Oct. 4 — TUMWATER *
Friday, Oct. 11 — BLACK HILLS *
Friday, Oct. 18 — at River Ridge *
Friday, Oct. 25 — at Capital *
Friday, Nov. 1 — CENTRALIA * * denotes 2A EvCo game; home games in CAPSmwochnick@theolympian.com