WESTPORT — Settled into a second year at Ocosta, head coach Brian Snell has seen the Wildcats buy into his program this season and expectations are rising.
After a 1-7 season in 2015, the Wildcats will charge into the newly formed Southwest Washington 2B Coastal Division with the belief that they can produce a postseason crossover berth in a historically tough schedule. A part of that belief is giving the players and the program stability and continuity that wasn’t there previously.
“It is still a work in progress,” Snell said. “Right now, it is a little more settled. We are changing things up a bit, finding things our kids can execute and be successful with. They are more coachable this year. After four days of practice, there is more excitement for the season than there was at this point last year. The kids this year who were with us last year, they’ve bought in.”
On Friday, Ocosta will host Chief Leschi to kick off the season.
With one year in the books, Snell noted that the team is picking up the offense and defense faster. In fact, with the division stocked full of power football teams, Ocosta will find its niche as a passing team — partially due to the experience Snell brings as a coach and due to the personnel in the Wildcats’ roster.
“We’ll look similar to last year with a four-wide offense, but in shotgun, not wildcat,” Snell said. “We have the guys to do it. If we try to be a power running team against teams who live and breathe power football, we would be playing right into the opposition’s hands there. We don’t have the personnel to do that. We need to give the guys here the best chance to be successful. That will fall upon us as coaches. The kids have the ability. We need to give them the skills.”
Senior Matt Hart will lead the offense at quarterback, with junior Hayden Hoff as his running back next to him in the shotgun formation. Out wide, Hart will have seniors Cosmo Silver and Dereck Thomas, junior Noah Martin and sophomore Kobe Beck as receivers.
On the offensive line, junior Grant Reid will anchor the corps at center, with junior Joe Wardlow and freshman Austin McDonald as tackles and junior Hunter Hatton and sophomore Tyler Jones as guards.
Wardlow, Hatton and Jones will make up the defensive line, which will be a 3-4 package. At outside linebacker, Reid and senior Kalvyn Scott will rush and Hoff and Thomas will be the inside backers to support the line.
Martin and Hart will take over the cornerback spots and Silver and Beck will be safeties. Snell believes his team won’t have to resort to “ironman” football with increased depth on the roster.
“We feel pretty good about our depth — two deep on the line and our backers,” Snell added. “Our backup guys will see a lot of time. We should be able to keep our guys fresh and rotate them around.”
Inside the new Coastal Division, Snell sees Pe Ell-Willapa Valley, Ilwaco and North Beach as the top-three teams, with Ocosta, South Bend and Raymond fighting there. He said the players’ goal is to play a meaningful postseason crossover.
“We expect to be better,” Snell said. “The kids know what it takes to get there. We need to steal one or two wins. I believe we can do that. I think there are opportunties there. It’ll come down to us, how the kids handle themselves and their work ethic.”