SVSJ preview: Cedarcrest football looks to grow in new 2A league enviroment

EDITOR’S NOTE: We close out our high school football preview day this morning looking at a new era for Cedarcrest High School’s program. They are in a new league environment this fall, one that should see better competition for them than in past years. We again continue our series tomorrow with a look at Mount Si High School’s cross country team, then we’ll feature high school volleyball on Thursday.

Cedarcrest High School’s football team finished winless last fall in its final season in Cascade Conference play, but looks for improvement this year buoyed by some strong senior talent and a new league structure that should find them in a more competitive environment than last season. However, they do have a quarterback to replace in the graduated Aaron Davenport so that could be a storyline to watch as the season rolls on.

Back as head coach for the Red Wolves is Billy Ojeda. Ojeda, in his fifth year overall on the Red Wolves staff and in his third season as head coach, assumes a roster that has among it several seniors. That group of players is led by new quarterback Gavin McDermott, who will look to fill the large shoes vacated by Davenport, who is now at the University of Hawaii plying his trade in baseball as an ace pitcher.

Of McDermott, Ojeda told us by email, “(He is a) quarterback who has waited his turn to lead and will do a great job of it this season.” Other seniors to watch include Tyler Gray, Frederick Reid, Tanner Payne, Cody Shultz, Jackson Burpee and Carter Briggs. Gray, described by Ojeda as “the pulse and the heartbeat of the team” has been an instrumental leadership piece on and off the field as evidenced by his athlete of the week designation we gave him during last school year for his hard work helping the school’s special needs students. Look for that leadership to be a big factor this fall for the Red Wolves as they embark in a league environment that should see them be in a better position to get wins this season.

The Archbishop Murphy controversy two seasons ago, in which a number of Cascade schools – Cedarcrest included – forfeited football games to the Wildcats due to concerns about competitive balance between ATM and the other teams, produced plenty of fallout, chief among it the dissolution of the conference after this past school year. But another part of that fallout that has not been as widely discussed is it resulted in a new 2A football structure for the Northwest District in which schools were placed in tiers based on their competitive balance regardless of which league they are part of (Wesco 2A/3A or Northwest Conference). There are two tiers – a Sky Division upper tier and a Lake Division lower tier. Cedarcrest resides in that Lake Division tier, and Ojeda is hopeful that the program will be able to move up over time.

“We are excited about the possibility of being able to move up to the Sky Division,” Ojeda said. “That is our goal but with our low numbers we are in a good division right now. Our kids are putting in the extra time in the weight room but we need to have a better turnout in the years to come. Summer is so short now and there are so many activities going on during the summer.” The program last fall carried around 40-50 players and those numbers are likely again the case this fall, so for the team to be in that better position there will need to be growth, but just where that growth will come from is unclear at this point. There is a junior football program feeding into Cedarcrest through the Greater Eastside Junior Football Association, but they do face stiff competition from other sports and the continuing concerns about the sport’s safety for players also is a likely factor in lower turnout.

Just the general size of the school (mid-range 2A) also is a factor, so the numbers crunch likely is going to be a long-term issue for the program unless the school itself grows in size in the coming years.

In this Lake Division, CHS will play Mountlake Terrace, Anacortes and three Whatcom County schools – Blaine, Bellingham and Sehome. They do not have Archbishop on the schedule this year, which is certainly good news.

Regardless of what happens on the field, the coach looks to build not just strong players, but strong young men. “My coaching philosophy is to have fun, while positively influencing student-athletes to develop a passion for the game of not only football but life as well. I am always a teacher before a coach and my door is always open for anyone,” he said.

The team also has some top newcomers to watch; leading that group is senior Joe Brunson, but sophomores Alex Enciso-Navarro, Shad Mills, Henry Smith and Anthony Weiker, along with freshman Luke Amble, all should contribute solid efforts each game to the Red Wolves’ efforts.

CHS opens the season Friday at Sammamish High School in Bellevue against the Totems then hosts Liberty for their home opener next Friday. Week three on September 14 sees Cedarcrest face former Cascade rival Sultan, then it’s into the league play with their league opener being September 21 at home with Bellingham. The Red Wolves currently have eight weeks of games scheduled – through October 19, with the final games likely being scheduled later depending on how their season finishes up. All games are at 7:00 and some games, particularly within the league play, could be picked up for radio broadcast by stations up that direction and webstreamed. Those details will be announced at a later date.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
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