The defense was up and down last year but returns a lot of experience.

Dorman was named first-team All-Conference quarterback after a very impressive debut season. “We threw more than we ever have before last year, but we still had games with only 10 to 13 passes,” coach Jeff Eaton said at a practice. “We’re looking to throw 20-25 times per game this year. We’ll have to with as many receivers as we have. We’ll do some three and four receiver sets,” he said, before quickly adding, “not all the time!”

“He’s showing a little bit stronger arm, with more zip on his passes,” added offensive coordinator Mike Riley. “With another year of experience, we’re going to allow him to make more decisions on the field. We’re going back to audibles. He’ll be going to the line with multiple plays in certain situations.”

Donny Edwards returns as a deep receiving threat. Eaton sees a variety of other options at receiver. Antonio Nolan, who will play high school football for the first time, is strong and changes directions quickly; he starred on the hardwood for Naselle last winter. Parker Dalton, Ethan Lindstrom, Jacob Eaton and Josh Townsend could all get targets.

Erik Lund is the power running back. Oggie Lopez provides speed in the backfield. The offensive line of Zac Thorsen, Vince Fauver and Carson Bergeson returns. In goal line situations, the 250-pound Bergeson occasionally gets carries and even the odd pass reception.

The Comets gave up over 40 points in regular season losses to Wahkiakum, Tacoma Baptist, and league rival Taholah, but contained Rainier Christian in the playoffs (28 points) and regular season (14 points), and held Evergreen Lutheran to eight points.

The Taholah game, for the league title, was a 44-32 shootout; the Comets proved their offense was good enough to win. This was despite Dorman being knocked out of part of the game with an injury, which forced the Comets to turn to now-graduated running back Jacob Scrabeck as wildcat quarterback for a few series.

Offenses are usually at an advantage in eight-man football, but the Comets must at least contain top opponents to pick up 35-31 type wins. Last year, after Taholah jumped out to an 18-0 lead in the early minutes, the Comets did contain them the rest of the way. Edwards, at defensive back, provided tighter coverage on star receiver Tom Anderson. Anderson is now graduated, but the Chitwhins likely remain the Comets’ biggest league nemesis.

Edwards, Dalton and Lindstrom are the top options at defensive back. Fauver returns as the middle linebacker. Eaton says Nolan, Gabe Gilbert, and Faoso Tutu’u are options at outside linebacker, which makes for a fast group. All three players return on the powerful defensive line: Lund, Carson Bergeson and Zac Thorsen.

The Comets’ season opens at home against Wahkiakum on Sept. 1.

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