Young Eagles return to Davis Field

Young Elma squad will play in familiar confines for 2016 season.

After two years of staging home football games in Aberdeen, Montesano and Hoquiam, Elma returned to Davis Field last Friday

For many Eagle starters, it will be their first varsity action at the venerable on-campus site following the demolition of the Davis Field grandstand prior to the 2014 season. In one respect, that poses the club’s biggest challenge this season.

The Eagles return only three starters from a club that went 5-4 last season. They’ll be surrounded by a largely underclass crew.

Elma’s youth is such that Friday’s season opener, a non-leaguer at home against former league rival Eatonville, will likely be a time of experimentation for first-year head coach Ron Clark.

An EHS alum and former Aberdeen head coach, Clark was promoted from Elma’s defensive coordinator after longtime head coach Jim Hill resigned in January. He plans to establish a no-huddle offense and multiple sets. The Eagles did indeed employ everything from a wing-T to a spread in last week’s Montesano Jamboree.

“We’ll be trying to take advantage of what the defense gives us,” Clark said. “We’ll try to move the ball around. We’ll see how the first game turns out and we’ll make a determination (about offensive emphasis) after that.”

All three of Elma’s returning starters received some type of all-Evergreen 1A League recognition last year.

Oscar Escalante was a first-team all-league offensive lineman and earned second-team honors on defense. The 280-pound senior again figures to be one of the league’s premier linemen.

Senior tight end Liam Baxter and senior fullback Ira Hartford were both honorable mention all-league selections a year ago.

Hartford leads a quick Elma backfield corps. Clark is high on the future prospects of sophomore wingback Tatium Brumfield. Also returning at the wings are 155-pound junior Tanner Krippelcz and 240-pound senior A.J. Brown.

Junior Avery Brown, one of the backups to the since-graduated Tristan Robinette last season, takes over the starting quarterbacking duties. Speedy senior receiver Brandon Butcher will be one of his prime targets.

Other probable offensive starters include juniors Bryceson Fritts and Dion John at tackles and junior Micah Swint at center. D.J. Coonse, another junior, will team with Escalante at the guard slots.

Elma’s defense will attempt to rebound from a shaky showing in the jamboree.

Key operatives in the 3-5 defensive set include Baxter, senior James Quimby and junior Brandon Tyler at defensive ends, Escalante at nose guard, Brumfield and Hartford at outside linebacker, Coonse, A.J. Brown, Hill and sophomore Niall Baxter at inside linebacker and Avery Brown and Krippelcz in the secondary.

Although the Eagles have a good-sized roster at 47 players, eligibility issues will prevent them from opening the season at full strength.

”I’m worried about staying healthy, especially in the first part of the year,” Clark observed. “The kids just got to keep trying. They’ve got to stay calm and keep after it and we’ll find something that will work.”

There is little doubt that the Eagles will be energized by the return to Davis Field. Although the grandstand has yet to be rebuilt, temporary bleachers have been erected.

“The thought of not having to go on the road is good for everybody,” Clark said.

The Elma coach regards state-ranked Hoquiam and Montesano as the Evergreen 1A favorites.

Clark will serve as his own offensive coordinator this season, with Larry Raynes in charge of the defense. Rich Ramirez, Ben Blankenship and Sean Keeran round out the Eagle staff.