The king is dead. Long live the king.
It was a star-studded class of senior talent that graduated last spring, making way for the next crop of would-be standouts to write their chapter in the Mid-Columbia book of football.
The Tri-City Herald's first edition of preseason rankings proved a big hit. Of the 40 choices, 24 were first-team all-league, and four more second-team. There were three MVPs, an offensive lineman of the year, three offensive players of the year and two defensive POYs.
So the pressure is on. Where would you start the building process of a new team? Would you take triple threat Miquiyah Zamora, rated No. 1 in three areas? Or go with his teammate, Jordan Downing, a proven player of the year? Or maybe it's Mr. Connell, Matt Hadley.
1. Jordan Downing, RB/LB, Chiawana
2. Matt Hadley, RB/DB, Connell
3. Miquiyah Zamora, WR/DB, Chiawana
4. Matt Mendenhall, QB, Southridge
5. Moe Handcox, WR/CB, Walla Walla
6. Steven Monterrey, RB, Sunnyside
7. Zach Umemoto, RB/LB, Kamiakin
8. Dennis Christensen, OL/DL, Richland
9. Sawyer Powell, LB, Richland
10. Caleb Garza, RB/DB, Othello
11. Gates Michel, OL/DL, Chiawana
12. Chandler Salisbury, QB, Connell
13. Chris Haueter, RB, Southridge
14. Jason Hutchison, QB, Kamiakin
15. James Swinyard, WR/DB, Kamiakin
16. B.K. Robinson, RB/DE, Richland
17. Drew Oord, LB/FB, Kamiakin
18. Grant Woods, RB/DB, Kennewick
19. Alex Myrick, QB, Royal
20. C.J. Edrington, WR/DB, Chiawana
21. Joe Hunt, DL, Kamiakin
22. Joey Zamora, QB, Chiawana
23. Bodie Simpson, WR, Kennewick
24. Luis Murillo, RB, Pasco
25. Josh Richards, WR, Southridge
26. Rob Ferenz, TE/DT, Walla Walla
27. Jonah Hoe, RB, Walla Walla
28. Colter Quick, QB, Richland
29. Elijah Gardaya, WR/DB, Richland
30. Lonnie Hurley, LB, Pasco
Matt Mendenhall, Southridge, Sr., 6-3, 200. Led the CBBN 3A in yards (2,602) and tied for third in TDs. Big, strong, athletic -- has all the tools to be the dominant passer in the area ... provided he has enough time to find receivers.
Chandler Salisbury, Connell, Sr., 5-9, 180. Threw 26 touchdowns to just four interceptions last year, his first as a starting quarterback. He won't have quite the same receiving threat, but is more seasoned and could put up big numbers.
Jason Hutchison, Kamiakin, Sr., 6-2, 175. Varsity rookie will have every chance to succeed, surrounded by talented skill players and one of the best offensive lines in the region. Has enough arm for the Braves' vertical attack.
Alex Myrick, Royal, Jr., 5-7, 165. A dual threat quarterback, rushed for 743 yards and threw for 1,833 more. Did throw 11 interceptions, but should improve on that this season. Should be more confident in the pocket.
Joey Zamora, Chiawana, So., 6-2, 196. Good size and great athletic genes -- his cousin is Riverhawks' two-way star Miquiyah Zamora -- could lead to a huge season. He has got plenty of talent around him to help grow into the role.
Sean Clausen, Kamiakin, Sr., 6-4, 235. Was a second-team CBBN 3A pick, now is the center for the offensive front that will be the focus of Kamiakin's attack.
Dennis Christensen, Richland, Sr., 6-4, 270. The anchor of Bombers' OL is an incredible athlete. Strong and fast -- he clocks 4.9 in the 40 -- he is drawing looks from Boise, BYU and Oregon St.
Gates Michel, Chiawana, Sr., 6-0, 210. Named to all-CBBN second team on OL and DL. He'll be the key to developing a young but promising offensive front to protect Joey Zamora.
Jeremy Larson, Walla Walla, Jr., 5-11, 260. Along with Logan Reardon, will anchor a strong Blue Devils OL that is starting to develop a nasty mean streak, according to coach Eric Hisaw.
Kennan VanHollenbeke, Connell, Sr., 6-4, 260: Three-year starter who has helped clear holes for the state's best running back. That offensive line is obviously doing something right.
Matt Hadley, Connell, Sr., 5-11, 210: What is left to say? Two-time Class 1A player of the year, tied the single season TD record, finished in top 10 for single-season rushing and committed to BYU.
Jordan Downing, Chiawana, Sr., 6-1, 200: Named to 4A all-state team after leading CBBN 4A with 23 TDs and 140 points. Led Riverhawks to CBBN 4A league titles in football AND basketball.
Steven Monterrey, Sunnyside, Sr., 5-10, 190: Mr. Offense for the Grizzlies, he led the CBBN 3A in all-purpose yards (1,634), was fourth in rushing (924, 6 TDs) and fourth in receiving (40-369).
Caleb Garza, Othello, Sr., 5-10, 195: Named the CWAC Offensive MVP last season after leading the conference in rushing with 1,605 yards. He was also the top scorer, finding the end zone 23 times.
Chris Haueter, Southridge, Sr., 5-11, 170: Doesn't get nearly as much credit for his defensive play as he should, but he is expected to play safety at BYU -- so someone is paying attention.
Miquiyah Zamora, Chiawana, Sr., 6-1, 199: Four-year starter and three-time all-league selection primed for his best season yet.
Moe Handcox, Walla Walla, Sr., 5-11, 170: Dynamic two-sport athlete needs two more receiving TDs to break Wa-Hi's career record. Will also see time at QB.
Bodie Simpson, Kennewick, Jr., 5-7, 160: Proved to be a dynamic target as a sophomore with 41 receptions (third in CBBN 3A) and 7 TD catches (tied for second).
Josh Richards, Southridge, Sr., 5-10, 165: Was the No. 3 target for Mendenhall last season but is the Suns' most experienced receiver. Was sixth in CBBN 3A in catches (35) and averaged 16.1 yards per catch.
C.J. Edrington, Chiawana, Sr., 5-11, 180: All-CBBN second-teamer led Riverhawks' WRs with 28 catches and 4 TDs, averaging 13.4 yards per catch. Sure hands and solid routes will help new QB make smooth transition.
Miquiyah Zamora, Chiawana, Sr., 6-1, 199: Led CBBN 4A special teamers with 14.6-yard average on 14 punt returns. Combination of speed and strentgh makes him one of league's most challenging players to plan against.
Grant Woods, Kennewick, Sr., 5-7, 165: Led the CBBN 3A in kick returns with a 33.7 average; returned two kicks for TDs; racked up 1,072 all-purpose yards; if he gets the corner, has enough speed to win most foot races.
Chandler Mertens, Southridge, Sr., 5-8, 165: Connected on 21 of 23 extra points and 7 of 10 field goals last season; veteran kicker gives Suns a real scoring threat as soon as they cross the other team's 35-yard line.
Q Taychack, Richland, Jr., 5-11, 145: Stepped into tough role after Bombers' all-league kicker, Kevin Garza, went down with injury late in the season. Hit 37-yard FG and nailed two extra points in first round of 4A state playoffs.
Cameron Law, Moses Law, Jr., 5-10, 180: As a sophomore, finished second in CBBN 4A among league kickoff returners with a 20.4 yard average on 17 returns. Will also help anchor Chiefs' secondary as returning starter.
Joe Hunt, Kamiakin, Sr., 6-3, 215: Had a standout year with 51/2 sacks last season; will have to deal with increased double teams as the only returner from a star-studded defensive line.
Gates Michel, Chiawana, Sr., 6-0, 210: There's nobody better to have in front of MLB Jordan Downing to fend off would-be blockers than this second-team all-CBBN senior.
B.K. Robinson, Richland, As good as he is on offense, coach Mike Neidhold says he is a natural on defense. "He has got a great football sense. He just wants to play."
Ivan Diaz, Kennewick, Sr., 6-0, 295: A CBBN 3A honorable mention last season, is a boulder in the middle that offenses will find tough to move. Squats more than 500 pounds.
Charlie Peterson, Prosser, 5-7, 184: His size is deceptive, because he was still an all-state player last year -- even after overcoming a knee injury.
Jordan Downing, Chiawana, Sr., 6-1, 200: Would you rather be bowled over by a 4A all-state RB or blasted head-on by a returning all-CBBN linebacker? Not much of a choice for opposing players, but this punishing hitter will get his licks in one way or another.
Sawyer Powell, Richland, Sr., 6-2, 205: Rare combination of speed and explosiveness put him on the map at a Nike camp for elite players in Beaverton. Once camp broke, he had offers on the table from Boise State, Oregon State and BYU.
Zach Umemoto, Kamiakin, Sr., 6-0, 195: A unanimous CBBN 3A first-team pick last season and a three-year starter; finished with 112 tackles last season, 42 for loss or no gain; learned from previous Kamiakin greats, now it's his turn to give the lessons.
Drew Oord, Kamiakin, Sr., 5-11, 210: Also a unanimous CBBN 3A first-team selection last seasons after tying a team record with 55 tackles for loss or no gain; also forced nine turnovers; bulldog of a defender who makes life tough on ball carriers.
Lonnie Hurley, Pasco, Sr., 5-9, 175: Quick on his feet with incredible balance. Qualified for state in wrestling last season and likely won't have any trouble taking down running backs.
Miquiyah Zamora, Chiawana, Sr., 6-1, 199: D-I recruit makes teams pay when they throw his way. Returned interception for TD in first game of season last year and rarely got challenged again.
Moe Handcox, Walla Walla, Sr., 5-11, 170: One of best athletes ever to suit up for Blue Devils. "He's afraid of no one," coach Eric Hisaw said. "He will hit you in the mouth over and over."
James Swinyard, Kamiakin, 5-9, 166: Earned CBBN 3A honorable mention; picked off two passes last season; is the only returning starter in Braves' backfield.
C.J. Edrington, Chiawana, 5-11, 180: Combines with Zamora, Isaac Daniel to form one of most formidable defensive secondary tandems in the state.
Matt Hadley, Connell, Sr., 5-11, 210: Doesn't get nearly as much credit for his defensive play as he should, but he is expected to play safety at BYU -- so someone is paying attention.