Coach Richard Ledford begins the 2014 season with modest goals and a readiness to take the upcoming campaign one game at a time.
“We want to be 1-0 after the first game and we’ll take it from there,” said Ledford, who marks his 40th season as a high school football coach in his second year in a second stint at Friday Harbor High School.
While the team loses Nathan Steenkolk, who added his name to the list of Wolverines all-time rushing leaders and scored a touchdown in this year’s state all-star game, Ledford isn’t worried. Seven seniors return to the lineup, including standouts Gabe Lawson, Peter Holt, Willie Blackmon and Bill Revercomb, sidelined in 2013 with a broken arm.
Ledford will look to these four to provide leadership to a squad that team captain Holt says is already a team-oriented group.
“Nobody stands out more than anybody else,” he said. “Most of us have been playing together since youth football, so it’s a close group of guys.”
Coach Ledford echoed that statement.
“It’s a great group of young men playing football,” he said. “They’re a joy to coach. Together, everyone accomplishes more.”
The Wolverines will unleash a new offense this year.
“It’s a pretty significant change and it makes us a more dangerous team,” Holt said. “I can guarantee nobody will have seen this type of offense before.”
One aspect Ledford is fairly unfamiliar with is the lack of depth on this year’s roster. Only 38 players turned out this year; Ledford is more used to a team with 50.
“People have to learn two positions to give us depth, but that is typical with a small school,” the veteran coach said.
Last season proved a difficult one, as the Wolverines tangled with the likes of Division 2A Anacortes, as well as 1A powerhouses Meridian, Blaine and Mount Baker (who ended up 2nd in the state).
“Competition brings out good things,” Ledford said. “I think we will come out stronger, even though last year we might have had some discouragement.”
This year, Friday Harbor will be one of the larger 2B teams, returning to a league that features Darrington, Concrete, Orcas and La Conner.
Ledford singles out La Conner as one of the stronger 2B opponents.
“They went to the state championship two years ago and the semi-finals last year, so they have a great class 2B program,” he said of La Conner, whom the Wolverines just barely beat in a 30-28 nail-biter a year ago.
Darrington and Concrete have been strong in recent years as well, each making state 2B appearances last season. Ledford believes the Wolverines will be able to compete with the 2B best.
“I can’t predict wins or losses, but we will have a competitive team.”
That competitive edge was on full display in the Sept. 5 season-opener, as the Wolverines retained the coveted Island Cup trophy with a 57-19 win at home over Orcas. The win bodes well for the season ahead, as the Wolverines take to the road to renew its former rivalry with Concrete.
— Sam Paul-Barrette