NASELLE — The Comets are spending their practices remaking their offense, which will see Ethan Lindstrom at quarterback running an option-heavy attack, joined in the backfield by Fa’aoso Tutu’u and Jimmy Strange.
In recent years, their offense was built around Cole Dorman’s precise accuracy and the timing he developed with his receivers. With their star passer graduated, the Comets decided to put their top athlete, Lindstrom, at football’s most important position. Warren Wirkkala, last year’s junior varsity quarterback, moves to receiver.
Lindstrom, an All-State receiver last year, got some backup quarterback reps in practice last season and played quarterback in middle school, running an offense similar to what he will run this year. “It was a lot of option (plays), with throws mixed in off of that.” Preseason practice has focused heavily on read option plays, with Lindstrom deftly disguising who has the ball, with an occasional pitch to the outside and a downfield pass here and there.
“The biggest change is having to know every position,” Lindstrom said. “People ask me where they should be, what they should be doing.”
Lindstrom has learned from Dorman, who continues dropping by practices. “Cole’s helped me with throwing the ball,” he says. “It’s all about continuity, and trusting your receivers to run the right route.”
Besides Lindstrom himself, the receiving corps also loses two of Dorman’s favorite and most reliable targets, Jacob Eaton and Josh Townsen, plus Antonio Nolan, a receiving weapon out of the backfield. That opens up opportunities for Wirkkala and Jason Harman. Oggie Lopez, who played running back two years ago and sat out last season, returns as another receiver. Corey Gregory, joining the team as a senior, provides a 6’2” target. The Haataia twins, Chase and Caleb, are playing football for the first time as seniors.
Coach Jeff Eaton said the team passed about 60% of the time last year and would likely run 60% of the time this year, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they are more run-heavy than that. Eaton considers Tutu’u and Strange two of the state’s top 1B running backs. Lindstrom, he said, “has lots of moves, as he’s shown playing receiver.”
Tutu’u, a senior, continues to gain power and speed. (In track last year, he routinely broke 12 seconds in the 100 for the first time, going as low as 11.53.) On defense, he moves from linebacker to defensive end. Freshman Kolten Lindstrom joins him on the line; he has shown skills defending the perimeter against the option in practice, guarding against his brother’s pitches and fakes on the outside. The younger Lindstrom has also gotten practice reps at running back.
Besides running the offense, Ethan will play linebacker, handle kickoffs and possibly return punts. Jimmy Strange, a first-team All-League linebacker, provides range and athleticism at middle linebacker. Joey Strange, a freshman, is an option at corner, as are Harman, Wirkkala, Gregory and the Hattaias.
Last year was the Comets’ first season in the Northwest League, which gave them stronger competition and longer road trips than the old Coastal League. The team still won all its league games convincingly. Against all three league opponents (Lummi, Darrington and Neah Bay), their road games were somewhat more competitive than their home games, an indication that the three- and four-hour trips had at least a slight effect on the visiting team. This year, Taholah, which was always the Comets’ toughest Coastal League rival, joins the Northwest League, as does Crescent, which made the playoffs last year. With six teams now in the league, teams will play each other only once each in league play. (Naselle also plays Taholah in the non-league schedule.) The games against Lummi (Oct. 25) and Crescent (Oct. 12), which Coach Eaton considers the two toughest league opponents, will both be on the road.
Naselle opens at home with a non-league game against South Bend, which is switching to eight-man football this year due to a thin roster. The game is Friday, Sept. 6 at 7:00 p.m.