A lot is brand new – and also familiar – for Eatonville in the 2012 high school football season.
The Cruisers have switched to a new league and classification, but neither is completely foreign. The Nisqually League, while with different members now, was their home before spending the last two years in the South Puget Sound League 2A. Eatonville also is back in the class 1A ranks, their enrollment category before the move to the SPSL.
Another known quantity for the Cruisers is the core of this year’s team. Key players are back on offense and defense, including the starting quarterback and an anchor of the defensive line.
Eatonville will open the season Friday at Orting, a longtime rival, in a non-league contest for both teams. Ironically, Orting is a former Nisqually member and is making its debut this year in the SPSL, taking Eatonville’s place. The Cardinals were 4-6 last season, the same win-loss record as Eatonville.
The Cruisers’ 2011 results were misleading. Five of their losses were by six points or less. A few breaks in their favor could easily have given them a winning record.
Coach George Fairhart said the Cruisers are “physically and mentally tougher because of that experience. We are battle-tested.”.
He added that several “core players from that team” are back, such as quarterback Zach Fairhart and lineman Lucas Hatton, both seniors. Last season, Fairhart passed for 921 yards and ran another 409, while Hatton was a dominant tackler on defense.
Other returnees with significant experience include running back Brandon Atkins, receiver Brendan Davis and defensive cornerback Joe Evans Jr.
Eatonville’s new league mates are Cascade Christian, Life Christian, Vashon, Wright, Bellevue Christian, Cedar Park Christian, Chiimacum and Port Townsend. Fairhart noted that all of them are generally unfamiliar to his team as opponents on the field. But the exploits of one of them – Cascade Christian – are widely known. The Puyallup school reached the 1A state championship game last year, is a past state titleholder and is the Nisqually’s defending champion. The Cougars are expected by many, including Fairhart, to be a strong contender for the league’s top spot again.
Eatonville also is a logical contender, based on its experience of playing against larger-enrollment schools the past two seasons – one of them (2010) as a co-SPSL champion – and a history of state championships in the 1A ranks in the 1980s and 1990s.
Key players on offense: Quarterback Zach Fairhart, senior, 6-foot, 200 pounds, last year completed 59 of 118 passes (50 percent) for 921 yards and eight touchdowns, and rushed 77 times for 409 yards; Brandon Atkins, senior running back, 5-10, 200 pounds, averaged six yards a carry last season (249 yards in 41 attempts); Brendon Davis, senior wide receiver, 6-1, 190 pounds, 322 yards on 22 catches a year ago; senior tight end Chase Ketter, 6-1, 200 pounds, nine catches for 140 yards in 2011; senior wide receiver Joe Evans Jr., 5-10 and 165 pounds, nine catches for 140 yards last year; Ryley Gray, senior running back.
Key players on defense: Lucas Hatton, senior lineman, 6-foot, 210 pounds, 40 tackles in 2011; Fairhart, safety, 53 tackles and four interceptions; Evans, cornerback, 43 tackles last year; Jonathan Warner, sophomore linebacker, 6-foot, 180 pounds, 42 tackles in 2011; Tyco Brown, senior lineman, 6-foot, 210 pounds; Davis and Gray, defensive backs.
Last season: 4-6, fourth-place in South Puget Sound League 2A
Head coach: George Fairhart, 20th year; Assistant coaches: Mike Moeller, Jeff Mladenich, Chris Hunke, Mike Lasher, Dave Andersen, Colton Griffith, Aaron Maxwell.