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Coach lures 'football' guys to football team

"South Whidbey football fans will see two kinds of football players on the field this year. The traditional football types and the kind the rest of the world calls football players -- in our lingo, soccer guys.Veteran head coach Mick Heggenes succeeded this year in luring some of the athletic soccer players onto his football team. I've been working on that for quite a few years, he said. They bring speed and muscle to the team, and they know how to win -- last spring, the South Whidbey soccer team played in the state AA title game.On the negative side, Heggenes has to teach them to use their hands instead of their head if the ball is thrown their way.The coach isn't worried about the soccer guys' toughness. They probably take more body shots in soccer and they have no protection, he said, citing such players as Jeremy Bartlett, Josh Mitchell, and Aaron McCabe.The Falcons will need the soccer infusion if they hope to improve on last year's 2-7 record in North Cascades AA competition. Other than the soccer players, the off season didn't do them much good, especially in the running back positions. Heggenes watched sadly as one ballcarrier after another left the team: one to Kamiak, one to Australia, one to cross country, and one for medical reasons. It was devastating, Heggenes said. But we knew that coming in to the season.Although he lost experience at the running back position, he's not complaining about the talent that turned out two weeks ago. Heggenes said Justin Shelton is looking good at halfback, and Nathan Little and Alex Hawley are vying for the fullback position. Others in the running are John Shields and Nick Helland.At wide receiver, Chris Martin, a 5-10, 180 pound junior, has impressed the coach, as have McCabe, Tim Jackson and Jesse Hurlocker.But who's going to throw the receivers the ball? Last year's big quarterback, Brian Moote, graduated, leaving two sophomores competing for the position. Heggenes said both Jeremy Iversen and Brian Wenker are very capable; they have strong arms.As always, the top Falcons athletes will see duty on both offense and defense as Heggenes strives to keep his best eleven on the field as much as possible.One position that Heggenes doesn't have to worry about is center, where 6-1, 220 pound Chris Hezel, second team all-conference in '99, returns for his senior year. The guard positions will be held down by Paul Borden, another '99 starter, and Brandon Cobb, a 190-pound senior with a solid frame that Heggenes expects to fill out. He'll get huge, he said. He's a good football player.At tackle, the Lehman brothers, Kelly and Adam, will provide bulk, as will Austin Carter. They'll be switching around up front. They've got to be able to play several positions, he said.The defense will include many of the same faces in different positions when the Falcons don't have the ball. Outslide linebacker Brady Switzer has looked exceptional in practice, the coach said.Just over 40 players turned out for the team this year, a number which Heggenes would like to see grow. But he said other activities and even nonactivity are siphoning off guys he thinks should be on the football field. It's seems like a trend, he said.The North Cascades Conference is one of the toughest AA groups in the state. Last year Meridian was virtually in a league of its own as it steamrolled to a state title, winning 64-12 in the Kingdome. The good news is that they graduated a lot of kids, said Heggenes. Unfortunately, Lynden Christian wasn't far behind Meridian last year, and they returned most of their players.Heggenes feels the Falcons have enough athleticism to be competitive if the team comes together. And helping that happen is a new batch of assistant coaches. New high school tech teacher Jeff Green was hired to coach the defensive and offensive lines; new basketball coach Andy Davis is coaching the receivers, linebackers and special teams; and volunteer Brent Hezel is coaching the running backs and defensive backs. Back from prior years are Don Elliott, and, of course, South Whidbey's human institution, Coach Jim Leierer.The Falcons will have a chance to win a game early in the season. Their first game is at home Friday, Sept. 8 against Granite Falls, one of the two teams they beat last year. "

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