ILWACO — As practices started last week, new coach Sean Cease had the task of quickly evaluating his players and teaching them his system. Only Craig Eyestone and Ray Baker return from last year’s coaching staff.
This season, Cease will call his own plays on offense and be heavily involved in managing the defense in his first year rather than designating assistants as offensive and defensive coordinators. As the coaching staff becomes more familiar with his system, he said, “I’ll let [assistants] take greater ownership and be more involved on both sides of the ball.”
Shortly after Cease was hired, he sent his playbook to quarterback Ethan Personius.
“Personius has shown good leadership,” Cease said. “He got guys together and went over the playbook with them.”
Even if it weren’t for the coaching change, this year’s Fishermen team would have to redefine itself. Last season’s offense relied heavily on the now-graduated Brandon McMullen, who scored 15 touchdowns, had three 30-carry games and led the team in catches on many weeks. With McMullen, who was also an All-League linebacker, so central to everything the Fishermen did during their 3-2 year in league play, it was no surprise he won the league MVP. The team will also have to rebuild the offensive and defensive lines, which were hit hard by graduation.
The Fishermen will be a run-first offense, Cease said, which is not a change from what they did last year. The team will frequently run the triple-option, with a fullback lined up in the backfield and two more backs on the wings. Brandon Duke, who was second on the team in carries last year, is likely to start at fullback.
The team’s most electrifying athlete, though, is receiver Alex Kaino. Like his predecessor, Kevin McNulty, Cease will look for ways to get Kaino the ball and let him outrun the defense. That will include some handoffs.
Tenyson Ramsey, another top athlete, played tight end last year. Cease says his offense will rarely use tight ends and that he will have to figure out how to use Ramsey, possibly at receiver. Jeb Sheldon, another tight end last year, may get some carries as a wing running back, where Cease thinks he will create mismatches with his size. Cease says Tony Andreotti, who moved here from California, could also get carries on the wing.
Parker Kaech, who last season was backup quarterback and played defensive back, will likely get on the field on offense this year, perhaps as a receiver.
“In my view, you can be a backup quarterback and still play another position,” Cease said.
Cease will run a 5-3 defense, with corners covering deep sideline routes, a free safety taking the middle of the field, and linebackers covering short routes. Kaino was an All-League corner last year. Ramsey is a fast pass-rushing threat at outside linebacker. Sheldon will likely play inside linebacker.
There is uncertainty who will start on the offensive and defensive lines. With several sophomores in the mix for playing time on the lines, Cease sees strong potential development at the positions over the next several years.