Hear about Southridge football’s strength this season
During last season’s Week 10 crossover games, the Southridge Suns ended up beating Rogers of Spokane 30-0 on the road to end their season.
It was the Suns’ only victory of the season. What did that do for the team?
“It was great for the seniors,” said Southridge coach Aaron Sonnichsen. “And it really set the tone for the off-season for our younger guys. It justified why we work out, why we put the work in.”
The bigger thing to Sonnichsen of last year’s 1-9 season was that not one player quit before the season was over.
The players stuck it out.
As the Suns work their way back up the Mid-Columbia Conference standings ladder, Sonnichsen knows his guys are ready to redeem themselves.
“If we went 5-5 this season, that would be awesome,” said Sonnichsen. “We talk about closing the gap (with the other teams). That doesn’t just happen overnight.”
Five things to know about the Southridge Suns
1. Senior numbers are low, but those there are important. Sonnichsen says there are just eight seniors out for the team. That includes co-captain Ryan Stayrook, who thought nothing of being late for a summer workout (although he notified Sonnichsen) so he could pick up a teammate who hadn’t planned to be there.
It’s that attitude – that being accountable to teammates — that will get the Suns back on track.
“My first year here, we had a 50 percent attendance rate in the weight room,” said Sonnichsen. “This summer was well over 90 percent.”
2. The Suns have had a quarterback battle. That ends this weekend with the team’s final preseason scrimmage. Trenton Slatter and Brendan Beck both saw playing time last season at QB – Slatter had 776 yards passing, while Beckwith added 580. But Sonnichsen has told them both that after Saturday’s team scrimmage, he’ll make one of them No. 1 on the depth chart starting Monday as the Suns prepare for a road game at Walla Walla.
3. Can Caleb Cook-Parker repeat what he did last year? Last year, as a junior, Cook-Parker led the entire MCC in receiving yards with 571 on 38 catches.
“Definitely, he’s the leader of the receivers,” said Sonnichsen. “Every day, after practice, he stays out and runs pass patterns.”
He won’t be the only target, by any means. Austin Gideon is expected to see passes thrown his way. So is Kennewick transfer Ryker Stevens, who at 6-foot-6 will be a large target.
4. Can the offensive line improve? It must if the Suns are to win. Last season, Southridge was last in the MCC in offense, and the Suns’ rushing game picked up just 217 yards all season.
“We’re going to be better this year,” said Sonnichsen. “I hope we can run the ball.”
Sonnichsen’s offensive system is based on running the ball to set up the pass.
Three players – senior Fidel Gutierrez, and juniors Lucas Martin and Blake Wingert – were starters on the line in 2018. Add Cameron Cook-Parker and Wyatt Reid this year, and Sonnichsen believes he has the guys to open holes for running backs Stayrook and sophomore Albersh Kuwa (who is the cousin of Kamiakin rushing standout Tuna Altahir).
“Stayrook should get 75 percent of the touches, but Kuwa will see some time too,” said Sonnichsen. “He had a great football camp this summer, and he wants the ball.”
5. The secondary is the strength of an improved defensive unit. Southridge was last in MCC defense in 2018.
“But our team speed is a lot better this year,” said Sonnichsen. “Our strength is the back four.”
Stayrook and Gideon will start at cornerback. Caleb Cook-Parker is at one safety, while Edy Centeno or Ryker Stevens could be at the other spot.
“Our front line is also good,” added Sonnichsen. “But we have to stay healthy.”
Jeff Morrow is the former sports editor of The Herald.