Following a last place finish in the 1A Evergreen League last season, it would make sense if the Beavers were eager to see how many new faces they can fit into this year’s lineup. That’s not the way they do business out in the Stone City, though.
This season, Tenino will return eight starters on both offense and defense while hoping that uncommon camaraderie will make the difference.
“I think we’re going to hang our hat on probably more unity than anything,” said Head Coach Cary Nagel before adding a hefty caveat. “If you’re talking scheme-wise, our offensive line is a lot bigger this year. They’ve spent a lot of time in the weight room and the defense is the same way. Kids have been working real hard.”
Pure size is one asset that jumps right off the page when looking over the Tenino roster. The line should receive a big push from Robby Marti, a 5-foot-11, 240-pound senior who was tabbed as a first team All-League player last season. Takari Hickle, a 6-4, 270-pound sophomore, will line up to the right of Marti and appears to have added considerable strength and coordination after earning an All-League honorable mention in his freshman campaign. On the defensive side of the ball, Hunter Sampley will use all of his 6-2 and 305-pound frame to wreak havoc at nose guard.
With more than 50 players in camp and a strong freshman class in particular, Tenino will boast two teams (Varsity and C-squad) for the first time in years. Looking around a rough and tumble 1A Evergreen League, Nagel knows nothing will come easy for his team, but he’s beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
“Elma reminds me a lot of us because I think they went through some struggles at first and then now they’re kind of rollin’,” Nagel said. “I like the way Elma has done things. I don’t think we are equal to them at all in the league but this year will tell.”
Tight end and linebacker Paxton Russell will shoulder plenty of the burden this season for the Beavers as they try to keep pace with the competition. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior will need to do a bit of everything this fall if the Beavers are to contend.
“I think our most talented guy right now is Paxton Russell. He’s an all-league kid getting recruited as a tight end and as a middle linebacker,” noted Nagel.
Shawn Nicholson is slated to get the lion’s share of the carries in the backfield while Gavin Watson is currently slotted in as the second team running back. Senior Aiden Wright returns to Tenino this season after spending his junior campaign at Capital High School in Olympia. Wright started for the Beavers as a sophomore and has been handed the keys to the offense again to start this season.
“He’s a mobile guy who is very athletic when he throws. He’s got a nice arm and he’s learning the offense so he’s doing a real good job,” Nagel said. “If he sees grass he can take the grass but we want him to go through his progressions first.”
The Beavers will host Rochester in the Scatter Creek Showdown in week one, and Nagel says the rivalry game is an optimal way to get the season started.
“Rochester has got us the last two years. They’re not in our league anymore but the kids all know each other,” Nagel explained. “It gives us a great focus to kick the season off. It’s a great motivator for the kids.”
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 in Tenino.