NASELLE — The Comets’ football team will have a tough road this year, with strong opponents and long trips, as they leave the Coastal League for the Northwestern League. Naselle will be the geographic anomaly in an otherwise appropriately named league, joining Darrington, Lummi and Neah Bay. The first two are north of Seattle, while Neah Bay is at the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula.
“[Athletic director Brian] Macy went to the District meeting, and the only (Coastal League) team that at that point could commit to have a football team was Mary M. Knight,” coach Jeff Eaton said. “So he asked me ‘what do you want to do? Should we play Mary M. Knight three or four times, or try to find other games?’…We would have ended up playing these [Northwest League] teams anyway to get games in.” So they arranged to join the league for football; the teams will play each other home and away.
The Comets open on Aug. 31 in Goldendale for a non-league game against Odessa, a team that scored over 60 points in every game last year before losing to Sunnyside Christian in state semifinals. Another tough non-league road game is at Tacoma Baptist two weeks later. As for their league opponents, Neah Bay won the state 1B title in 2016 but had a down year last season, going 5-6 and losing to the Comets 72-20 in the playoffs. Lummi went 9-4 last season, beating Tacoma Baptist in State quarterfinals before being blown out in semifinals by eventual champ Almira-Coulee-Hartline.
Quarterback Cole Dorman leads a fearsome passing offense. He threw for 1926 yards last year, completing 65 percent of his passes at 18.3 yards per completion. Jacob Eaton, the 6’3” red zone target, and Josh Townsen were both All-Coastal League receivers last season. Emerging star Ethan Lindstrom made some big catches in the playoff loss to Almira-Coulee-Hartline, proving he could match up athletically against an elite team.
The team’s fastest player, running back Faaoso Tutu’u, had his share of dazzling runs and will likely get more carries with Erik Lund graduated. Eaton envisions a breakout year for Tutu’u if he can become a more complete back, running effectively up the middle. “That’s how he can get the ball more,” Eaton said. “We want to find ways to get it to him. He averaged 11 yards per carry last year when we did get it to him.” Antonio Nolan combines speed and power and will also get his share of carries.
The Comets have to rebuild their lines. Lund, the Coastal League MVP last season, and Nick Gaines, an All-League player, formed a scary senior pass-rushing duo as defensive ends last year, disrupting Taholah’s offense in the Comets’ blowout win over their rival. Carson Bergeson stuffed runs up the middle. All will have to be replaced.
Vince Fauver, who was Coastal League defensive MVP at linebacker last season, will move to the line, playing nose guard. Jacoby Johnson, a freshman whose strength and power Eaton noted, will likely play the line, as will Jacob Eaton. Sophomore Aaron Todd is an option, giving them some size “if a team tries to pound us,” Eaton said. On offense, Fauver will play center, Todd will be left guard, and the third lineman spot remains up-for-grabs. (Playing eight-man football, the Comets only use a three-man line.)
Jimmy Strange will play middle linebacker. Ethan Lindstrom, who is also the kicker, provides good range at outside linebacker. Eaton plans to move Townsen from corner to linebacker this year.
Nolan snatched three interceptions in a loss to State runner-up Sunnyside Christian last season and was an All-League defensive back. With Townsen moving up to linebacker and Donny Edwards graduated, the other corner spot is up for grabs.
The Comets’ home opener is Sept. 7 against Rainier Christian.