Attitude, character established with football squad | FALL SPORTS PREVIEW

South Whidbey sophomore Wesley Crain prepares to hand off the ball to a running back at practice.

South Whidbey sophomore Wesley Crain prepares to hand off the ball to a running back at practice.

South Whidbey High School football coach Michael Coe is finally seeing the type of atmosphere he’s envisioned after taking over the program in 2015.

During a scrimmage with Sehome High School on Saturday, the Falcons’ opponent scored a quick touchdown on a long run. But, rather than let the early slip-up affect them, Coe said the Falcons rose to the occasion. They knocked the Mariners’ offense out of rhythm while responding with a touchdown of their own before the play-limit expired with the game tied at 7. Each team was permitted 30 plays. Coe said the players showed heart and a strong response to adversity in the preseason test and is eager to see how they perform at 6 p.m. on Saturday in the season opener at Coupeville.

“I thought when adversity really struck, they answered,” Coe said. “We came back on defense and stuffed them the rest of the time.”

Based on what the second-year coach saw from the team’s scrimmage and the team’s schedule, Coe is optimistic the team will be competitive. Last year, the Falcons won one game and lost nine in a season that was plagued with injuries at key positions. South Whidbey will compete with three other Class 1A teams in the Cascade Conference — Cedar Park Christian, King’s and Sultan — for a berth to the postseason.

“I look at our schedule and I think it’s favorable to what we can do,” Coe said. “Really, I want us to take a big step forward this year.”

The Falcons have 34 players on the roster. Coe expects veterans like seniors Connor Antich, Hunter Newman and Chase Barthlett to resume their roles as impact players. Wesley Crain, who saw significant playing time at receiver as a freshman in 2015, will be one of the most versatile players for the Falcons. He’ll touch the ball from the quarterback, running back and receiver positions, Coe said.

Greyson Clements, a junior, will also take snaps at quarterback.

Several Falcons will also see touches at running back, Coe said, including Antich, Newman and newcomer Jay Bierschenk. A senior, Bierschenk decided to turn out for his final year. He’ll also be in the mix at receiver. Coe said injuries prevented the Falcons from running the ball more in 2015 and that he plans to rush the ball more this season.

It’s unclear whether Crain or Clements will take more snaps at quarterback. The pair are battling for the position through the preseason and have split reps thus far. They continued to do so in the scrimmage. Both had their ups and downs, said Coe, though Crain scored on a 15-yard scramble to tie the game at 7.

Coe said he is leaning toward a two-quarterback system. Because of Crain’s versatility, Coe will look to put the ball in his hands as frequently as possible.

“Wesley is such a good athlete and we can use him in a variety of ways,” Coe said. “We don’t have huge numbers so we have to use our playmakers where we can.”

Crain and Clements said they have embraced the competition and are not rivals.

“It’s kind of cool because you have someone to compete with every day; that makes you better,” Clements said. “If it’s just you, you just kind of do you. But with someone behind you, you’re pressured to do better.”

Each athlete brings different strengths to the position. Crain is more mobile while Clements is more of a pocket-passer. Clements is also brand new to the position due to a lack of gunslingers on the roster. When Clements isn’t at quarterback, he’ll line up at tight end.

Crain said the offense will retain its same look from last season and will feature more rollout plays.

“We just have some more plays that get us out of the pocket and away from the line so we have more time to throw,” Crain said. “That’s going to help.”

Newman, a middle linebacker and Barthlett, a lineman, will be integral for the defense. Newman led the league with around 140 tackles last season, while Barthlett’s size and speed will prove valuable in chasing down runners.

Newman said the key for the Falcons will be coming together as a team and operating as a unit.

The rest will take care of itself, he said.

“I see a big improvement already,” Newman said.


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