The 2019 South Central Athletic Conference East football season looks to have much of the same old story, with Royal and Connell looking like the teams to beat.
At least that’s what most of the coaches say.
But keep an eye out for Warden, College Place and River View.
The top four teams in the seven-team conference will again make the postseason, playing the top four teams from the SCAC West to determine the four state playoff berths.
Here are 5 things to know about the SCAC East:
1. Royal, Connell reloading
Royal had a senior-laden team last season, and that team made it to the 1A semifinals before losing 31-28 to eventual state champion Colville.
And while the Knights lost key players Gage Christensen, Angel Farias, Alonso Hernandez and Sawyer Jenks to graduation in June, Royal coach Wiley Allred has a program where the next guy steps into position and excels.
Allred sometimes downplays things, though.
“Our strength needs to be team speed, because we’re not big,” said Allred. “Our defensive secondary is strong, and we have a great attitude. We do have some inexperience in varsity competition.
”Seniors Lorenzo Myrick (RB-DB) and Tyler Allred (WR-DB) were first-team all-league defensive backs last season. Throw in new quarterback Caleb Christsensen, a junior, and two-way senior lineman Michael Perez, and it’s easy to see there is still some talent at Royal.
“Royal is the team to beat,” said Wahluke coach Ryan Antos. “Connell is going to be big again.”
Over at Connell, Eagles head coach Wayne Riner returns one of the league’s best backs in Jekoby Tuttle, who was first-team all-conference last year as a junior. His brother, junior Jaxsen Tuttle, should also see some time at running back and linebacker. Senior Chris Guess should lead the offensive line at center, while also playing some linebacker.
Riner has another son playing, this one sophomore Carson Riner, at strong safety.
2. Warden, College Place try to take over
Could this be the year that someone besides Royal or Connell takes the crown? Perhaps.
Warden has a nasty 1-2 punch in QB Ryan Arredondo and RB Holden Hayworth. Both were second-team all-SCAC East players at their positions last year as juniors. Throw in Tyson Wall, a second-team all-star as a return specialist and defensive back, and it’s easy to see why Warden fans have high expectations this season.
“Our strength is our returning skill kids,” said Warden coach Robert Arredondo. “We have some kids that throw, catch and run the ball, combined with their experience, it looks to be a good season for us. Along with that experience comes leadership, and they all possess it.”
Donald Ponds, the head coach at College Place, sees his interior line being what leads his team.
“Our strength is the offensive line and defensive front seven,” said Ponds. “We just need to work on being consistent and being disciplined. We were one of the most penalized teams last year.”
Leading the way for the Hawks will be Joel Brown, a second-team all-star last season on both the offensive line and at linebacker. Tanner Schreindl was a second-team All-SCAC East choice at defensive back, and Brian Jerald will lead the team again at quarterback.
3. Kiona-Benton, River View and Wahluke making noise
Bryce Kennell is excited about the veterans his River View football team has this season.
“For our team, I would have to say our biggest strength is our experience,” said Kennell. “Right now we have the biggest senior class since I have been at River View. Looking across the board, we are set to start seven seniors on the offensive side of the ball and nine on defense. We have key seniors in backup roles as well who would be starters if it weren’t for logjams at positions.”
The Panthers, Kennell says, just have to improve on finishing games this season. They lost a few contests in the fourth quarter last season. Expect RB-LB Spencer Weatherby – a second-team all-star pick last season at both positions – to lead this team.
“He has the tools to be the best player in the league,” said Kennell.
Jaden Brewer is a returning second-team all-conference offensive lineman, and has been a starter since his sophomore year. Tre Sakota will once again be the starting QB.
Ken Noel returns two second-team all-conference players at Kiona-Benton, and they’re both on defense. Joe Mendoza will lead the Bears’ linebacking corps, while Martine Villarreal will shore up the secondary.
Finally, Antos likes what he sees with his Wahluke team.
“Our biggest strength is probably our team speed,” said Antos. “We have speed at receiver and running back this year. Quarterback Oscar Rodriguez is looking good in camp.”
Two-way lineman Pedro Castaneda, and RB/S Jose Celaya will be team leaders.
4. Other players to watch
Royal linebacker Martel Flores, WR Cooper Christensen and OL-DL Jose Medina should also shine for Royal … QB Travor Johnson and QB-LB Chandler Salisbury will also be leaders for Connell. … RB-LB Ayzaiah Pruneda, WR-DB Kaden Skone and TE-S Edgar Hernandez should shine for Warden. … Ponds also likes C-DT Alex Smith and OL-LB Nick Rooney at College Place. … Kennell is also expecting big things from RB Isaiah Turner and WR Robert Nunez at River View. … Antos is looking at RB-LB Tony Cruz and RB-LB Lewis Gonzalez at Wahluke to have big seasons.
5. Key games
It starts hot and heavy on opening night, Sept. 6, with a couple of non-league contests (all kickoffs at 7 p.m.): Connell visits tough neighborhood rival Othello, while Royal hits the road to play 2A power Ellensburg.
A week later, Othello will visit Royal on Sept. 13.
A big Friday is also set on Oct. 11: Royal visits Connell for what could be the league championship. Meanwhile, Warden travels to College Place for what could be the No. 3 playoff berth.