The last time we saw the Woodinville football team in pads, it was during a torrential downpour following its 28-21 loss in a crossover playoff game against Issaquah.
That night, four Falcon seniors — and one sophomore starter — were injured and did not suit up, but Woodinville went down fighting to the bitter end and nearly pulled off the upset. Falcon head coach Wayne Maxwell, now in his seventh season at the helm, remembers it well.
"One of the fortunate — and unfortunate things (he said with a laugh) — that happened last year was we ended with a lot of injuries and we played a lot of sophomores," he said Friday night after the Falcons’ fourth practice of the 2010 campaign.
"Our sophomore class was a talented group, but we kinda threw them into the fire maybe a little more than we wanted. The nice thing now is that we we’ve got a lot of juniors back with experience."
Tops among that list is quarterback Brett Arrivey — 6-foot-1, 200 pounds with a big arm and a good head on his shoulders.
"Talk about comfort level," Maxwell said. "He’s a tremendous leader — he was a good leader last year as a sophomore — but having him back with his knowledge of the offense is a great thing. He’s beyond where a junior typically is. He just has some of those natural qualities a coach can’t teach — he’s a gamer, calm in the pocket, and cerebral."
According to Maxwell, Arrivey will conduct an offense that will feature the spread formation.
"We’ll let Brett and the spread take its course," he said. "The beauty of it is we’ll be able to take advantage of what the defense gives us, to find guys in open space."
Junior running back Alex Schwend, who made a big splash last year as the feature back, is now bigger, stronger and faster, Maxwell said.
"We’ll have a good run game with Schwend, Joe Ip and Branden Shrout — three guys who can carry the rock — and if defenses load up on the run we’ve got options where Brett can throw the ball around."
Among those options are receivers Ryland Longoni — who caught six touchdown passes last year — newcomer Kyle Adkins, Lance Reiner, Myles Franklin, Dan Clark and Beau Vintertun.
"Adkins is new but he’s talented," Maxwell said. "Good size, good hands and he can run."
Woodinville’s offensive line appears to be set with juniors Sawyer Whalen (6-4, 220) and Devon Dietrich (6-4, 235) as bookends at tackle.
At guard the Falcons will start junior Andrew Stoneberg (6-3, 240) and senior JD Chapman and junior Riley Coleman are competing for the other starting spot.
Junior Jacob Hollister will start at center. "He’s smart, he’s tough and he’s quick," the coach said.
Notably, three of Woodinville’s four captains this season are juniors:
Arrivey, Hollister and Whalen, with Ip the lone senior.
On defense, Maxwell believes the Falcons will create the necessary havoc.
"Whalen’s the real deal at defensive end," he said. "He’s recovered from that broken ankle (that ended his season in the Lake Washington game) and he’s special: tall, lanky, athletic and fast and we expect he’ll make a lot of plays up front."
Maxwell said the interior line will feature Hollister and Marcus Johnson, with senior Doug Sullivan on the other side.
The linebacker position will be maintained in the middle by returning starter Jake Dobyns. "He’s solid, he’s experienced and just makes plays," Maxwell said. Competing for the outside positions are Jack Sturgeon, Shrout, Reiner and Sean Sellers. "Those jobs are wide open and it’s a fun one to watch," Maxwell said.
Ip is the strong safety. "He’s a smart, tough kid who’s gonna be in the right place at the right time," Maxwell said. Longoni will patrol center field as the free safety, with Clark and Schwend at the corners. "But we also have some other kids who can play there — Vintertun and Adkins, so we’ll be able to rest Schwend a little bit here and there."
The kicking game remains a question, Maxwell said. "Conner Zaback is a nice young kicker and we have a new guy, a soccer guy — Michael Boswell — who can kick it, too. We’ll see where that goes." He said Arrivey has a powerful leg and can be relied upon in a pinch.
What does he like most about this group?
"Right now, looking at where we were the same time last year, we’re a lot more confident as a team," he said. "We have nice chemistry. We had different dynamics last year with so many new sophomores starting with seniors ... and a lot of guys didn’t really know each other that well."
He said there was much more cohesiveness entering into this season.
"We really have some nice junior leadership where guys are pushing each other to get better. Definitely as a whole this team is working at a much higher rate than we were last year at this time."
Woodinville opens up against Mount Si on Thursday, Sept. 2 in the first game to be played at the renovated Pop Keeney Stadium.