ATHENA — While most of the area’s prep football landscape snapped into action last Friday, the Weston-McEwen TigerScots saw the field from a much different angle. Players and coaches for Weston-McEwen filed into the bleachers around the area, scouting the rest of the teams on their schedule for this fall.
An early season bye week may come in handy against non-league foes like Waitsburg-Prescott and Blue Mountain powers like Heppner because when the TigerScots open play on Friday, the target is on their backs this time. The boys from Athena will begin their BMC title defense against DeSales at 7 p.m. in Walla Walla, Wash.
But watching everyone else suit up under the Friday night lights has got the team thinking past practice this week.
“It’s game week and nothing’s better than game week,” said fifth-year head coach Kenzie Hansell. “You get ready and have an opponent to focus on rather than hit ourselves over and over and over.”
In DeSales (1-0), the TigerScots will face an offensive-minded Washington team. Where Weston-McEwen will look to replace graduated skill position players like quarterback Dallas Reich and running back Elliot Salter, the Irish return all of their ball handlers.
Senior quarterback Jeremiah Cox threw for 242 yards and four scores in DeSales’ opening-week pounding of La Salle. Cox also started for the varsity team that posted a 7-3 record last season in the state’s 2B classification.
The dangerous signal caller will line up behind a rather young offensive line, though. The TigerScots will need to bring pressure to disrupt a team that likes to toss the ball around, something they did very well last year while pitching five straight shutouts and six overall.
“(DeSales) puts up points, no doubt about it,” Hansell said. “They do a lot of things that we did last year offensively, to spread it out. They use their quarterback’s strengths.”
Weston-McEwen lost nine seniors and six all-league players from an 11-1 team that found its first playoff victory in the last 15 years, advancing to the state semifinals. A more rounded-out team this year, the TigerScots may not have the firepower of supreme athletes like Reich — last fall’s All-EO football player of the year — but they’re no push overs, senior running back Tyler Peterson said.
“Last year I was learning a lot from Elliot and Dallas; I’m ready to run hard,” Peterson said. “We’ve got a lot of guys filling in that are coming up and doing really well.”
Peterson, a senior, will miss most of the preseason after separating his right shoulder in practice last week. The injury has coach Hansell shifting a few players around, something he’s learned to do very well this offeseason. Senior Jacob Ramirez, who played wide receiver last year, and sophomore Eric Washburn will combine for the quarterbacking duties.
The offensive line could be the strength of this squad, featuring seniors Nick Pease, KJ White and Michael Guerrero. The line has size and mobility, a solid crutch to take some pressure of the new starting backfield.
“This year it’s a whole different game with those skill positions,” said Guerrero, a first-team all-state lineman in 2011. “Our line will be the key factor.”
Weston-McEwen will make its home debut for the season following the DeSales contest against one of the teams the players scouted during their bye week. Waitsburg-Prescott comes to town on Sept. 14.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.