In many ways, this is one of the biggest years for Aberdeen football in recent memory.
Taking away the move back into the Evergreen 2A Conference, the Bobcats will field one of the biggest rosters since the late 1990s. For their confidence, their health and their development as a program, this is not a small accomplishment.
“The numbers are awesome; for the first time in a very long time, we’re going to have three teams — varsity, junior varsity and freshman,” AHS head coach Kevin Ridout said. “The numbers are important for drills and scrimmages, but we also have a lot of talent within those numbers. We have football players here.”
On Friday night, Aberdeen (1-8 in 2015) will kick off the season against county rival Montesano at Rottle Field.
For the first time in five seasons, Aberdeen will be taking on its closest Class 2A rivals in the Evergreen 2A. Two-year trips to the Greater St. Helens 2A League and the Evergreen 2A/1A League allowed the program to slowly rebuild its roster.
Also, there are no postseason criteria to meet in the first week of the season, even if you look at this year’s schedule and see a very familiar group of opponents from the former 2A/1A league.
“The league we played in (over the last two years) was as tough as any league in the state,” Ridout said. “You take Hoquiam, Montesano and Elma and the quality of athletes on those teams, they were just as good, possibly better than some Class 2A teams in the state. The only difference was the number of players on the sidelines. You’ll see substitute platoons at Tumwater and Chehalis that you won’t see in the 1A ranks.”
One of Aberdeen’s leaders who’ll take charge this season will be senior wide receiver/linebacker Braden Castleberry-Taylor. The first-team all-Evergreen 2A/1A League selection will find himself all over the field. Junior Kylan Touch will be the team’s main running back, while sophomore Ben Dulblanko and senior Nick Newcomb are in competition for the starting quarterback job.
In fact, most of the positions throughout the offense and defense are still up in the air. This is something the additional depth on the roster has given to the Bobcats. Ridout noted the team will bring 60-65 players on the roster when the season starts on Friday.
“You know if you aren’t being pushed from behind, you aren’t going to improve,” Ridout said. “When you have players who can take your spot, you fight for your spot and you fight to improve and get better. The competitiveness of this team is strong. The guys are pushing each other to get better. The sheer motivation will be who hustles the most and who is the best will be the ones who are on the field. That is nice.”
Entering the Evergreen 2A, Ridout noted that everyone would call Tumwater, the state 2A runner-up in 2015, and Chehalis as the top-two teams in the league. From there, Aberdeen, Centralia, Black Hills and Rochester will be in a fight for the postseason.
“Our athletes can step onto the field and compete,” Ridout said. “Are those schools awesome? Yes. When you step onto the field and you prepare yourself in the weight room, on the practice field and in the locker room, you can win the game. You can compete in the game. For all intents and purposes, our program is heading in the right direction.”
Assisting Ridout this season will be Casey Doyle, Jack Traxtle, former AHS head coach Terry Dion, Shon Schreiber, Joe Fagerstedt, Bert Garcia, Kent Gravely and Jarrod Patterson.