Evan Thompson / The Record — South Whidbey junior Alex Turner readies himself for a tackling drill during a football practice. Turner had a bold prediction for the 2017 football season.

Independent schedule could boost program viability

South Whidbey football has only one victory to its name over the past two seasons.

That doesn’t sit well with junior tight end Alex Turner. He expects a complete turnaround this season and predicted that all nine of the Falcons’ games will be victories.

“Looking at our season, I think we can beat every single one of them,” Turner said. “Especially with the offense we’re running now.”

The Falcons opted to break from the Cascade Conference to play an independent schedule this season. The Falcons struggled over the past three years with small rosters and teams laden with young players, while enduring staggering defeats along the way. The roster dipped to as low as 14 varsity players during the 2016 season. The hope is that playing a schedule more conducive to the Falcons’ competitive level will help reinvigorate enthusiasm in the program, while also reducing injuries on the field.

South Whidbey’s schedule features a mix of class 1A and 2B teams, including a season-opener against Coupeville at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1 at Waterman’s Field. Other than 1A teams, Coupeville and Chimacum, the rest of the Falcons’ opponents are 2B.

Turner and senior quarterback Greyson Clements were split in their opinions of playing an independent schedule. Clements is in favor of it because he believes it will be a strong foundation for rebuilding the program.

“I think we will win a lot more games,” Clements said. “I think it’s going to bring up our confidence. Even in the school, I think people will start hearing good things and will want to come out. It might bring on more guys.”

Turner could see the positives of the move, but feels there may be a competitive imbalance with the teams on their schedule, which includes small schools such as La Conner, Chimacum and Ocosta.

“I think we’re going to be more of a challenge now, but honestly I feel like we’re going to run through these teams,” Turner said. “But, I think it’s going to be good. I understand why we did it.”

Head coach Mark Hodson, who returned to lead the program after stepping away in 2013, is completely in favor of the move to an independent schedule because it compliments a simple goal for the season.

“I think our expectations are to just be competitive,” Hodson said. “If we can be competitive this year, I think that will be a step in the right direction. Then, we can build on that.”

On offense, the Falcons should have a balanced attack out of the I-formation, where the fullback and running back lineup directly behind the quarterback. Toting the football from the backfield will most likely be sophomore Clay O’Brien, senior Hunter Ewart and junior Caden Spear.

An effective run game requires a strong offensive line. Turner and Clements feel the Falcons have just that.

“We have a very mobile line,” Clements said. “They’re very fast and can move around well. I think that’s definitely going to play to our advantage. Plus, our guys are all really strong. A lot of them were in the weight room over the summer, so they’ve been building themselves up for this.”

The defense will line up in a traditional 4-3 scheme, consisting of four down linemen and three linebackers. Turner said the defense is similar to what was used this past season, but is a step up from last year because the Falcons will employ more blitzes and stunt maneuvers, where two or more defensive players try to penetrate the offensive line.

“We’re implementing a lot more than we did last year,” Turner said.

The season-opener will also include a dedication ceremony at halftime. The stadium is being renamed after longtime South Whidbey sports icon Jim Leierer, who coached the Falcons for nearly 30 years.