RIDGEFIELD -- Having a new man in charge can be unsettling. When it's the second new boss in as many years, it can be doubly perplexing.
But the senior leaders of the Ridgefield football team sound comfortable with playing under a third head coach in as many seasons.
2A Greater St. Helens League
Coach: Rick Steele, ninth season.
2011 record: 7-3, 4-0 2A GSHL.
Key players: Noah Schultz-Rathbun, sr., ol/lb; Jesse Tonkinson, sr., wr/db; Jess Krahn, jr., qb; Thomas Kirschenbaum, sr., rb/lb; Austen Johnson, soph., rb/s; Bobby Scott jr., ol/dl; Nick Lines, jr., ol/dl; Nick Barclay, jr., rb/lb; Justin Anderson, jr., rb/db; Nick Guinett, sr., wr/db; Walker Gillispie, sr., ol/dl.
Season outlook: If the offensive line gels, the Hawks will be a real threat to repeat as 2A GSHL champions. Coach Rick Steele says this roster includes the best group of skill position players in Hockinson’s nine-year history. Third-year QB Jess Krahn, still only a junior, could have a big year.
Aug. 31 at Elma
Sept. 7 at Fort Vanc.
Sept. 14 Hudson’s Bay
Sept. 21 River Ridge
Sept. 28 at Ridgefield*
Oct. 5 Mark Morris*
Oct. 12 R.A. Long*
Oct. 19 at Aberdeen*
Oct. 26 Washougal*
- — 2A GSHL game
Home games played at Nautilus Field
Coach: Dan Andersen, first season.
2011 record: 6-4, 4-3 1A Trico.
Key players: Clayton Farr, sr., hb/s; John White, sr., te/lb; Ian Williams, sr., rb/lb; Dallas Wells, sr., te/de; Ryan Croston, sr., ol/dl; Seth Williams, sr., ol/dl; Evan Barr, sr., ol/de; Matt Cushwa, sr., fb/lb; Gunnar Long, sr., qb/s; Sam Gillenwater, sr., wr/c; Curren Williams, jr., rb/s; Dalton Ries, jr., wr/k; Garret Behrman, jr., ol/dl.
Season outlook: Moving into the 2A GSHL, Ridgefield will be one of the smallest 2A schools in the state. That challenge, along with a new head coach for the third year in a row, gives the Spudders plenty to prove. A strong senior class is one reason for optimism.
Aug. 31 at Rochester
Sept. 7 Kalama
Sept. 14 at River Ridge
Sept. 21 at Hud. Bay
Sept. 28 Hockinson*
Oct. 5 Washougal*
Oct. 12 at M. Morris*
Oct. 19 at R.A. Long*
Oct. 26 Aberdeen*
- — 2A GSHL game
Home games played at Ridgefield High School
Coach: Bob Jacobs, third season.
2011 record : 6-3, 1-3 2A GSHL.
Key players: Austin Tofell, sr., fb/olb; Stephen Camden, sr., hb/olb; Bobby Jacobs, jr., rb/db; Anthony Valdez, sr., ot; Christian Edmonson, jr., c; Guy Larue, sr., qb; Chase Duey, jr., qb; Nate Adams, sr., de; Spencer Adams, soph., de.
Season outlook: The Panthers were 6-0 before three close losses, two in overtime, to finish 2011. In the days leading up to Friday’s opener, senior Guy Larue and junior Chase Duey were still competing to be the starting quarterback. That is one of several positions where the Panthers must replace graduated all-league performers. Washougal plays only three home games this season.
Aug. 31 at Hudson Bay
Sept. 7 at Tenino
Sept. 14 Ft. Vancouver
Sept. 21 at Clatskanie
Sept. 28 R.A. Long*
Oct. 5 at Ridgefield*
Oct. 12 at Aberdeen*
Oct. 19 Mark Morris*
Oct. 26 at Hockinson*
- — 2A GSHL game
Home games played at Fishback Stadium
REST OF THE 2A GSHL
Aberdeen: New coach Terry Dion takes over a Bobcat team that was 1-8 in 2011. Aberdeen is a new member of the 2A GSHL for football only.
Mark Morris: The reigning 1A Trico League offensive player of the year, Austin Johnson, moved from Kalama to Longview. The Monarchs’ backfield and linebacking corps are now both loaded.
R.A. Long: The Lumberjacks should improve by leaps and bounds in 2012. A young 2011 team is still young heading into the new season, but the Jacks are more seasoned at every position. QB Ryan Peerboom showed poise in the pocket as a sophomore.
Playoff format: The top three teams advance to the district playoff round, with the 2A GSHL’s top two teams hosting games and the No. 3 seed visiting the Evergreen Conference champion.
Theirs is a confidence born of success over two seasons of varsity football, along with an established relationship with the new man at the helm.
Dan Andersen is that man. Hired in April, Andersen replaces Matt Martin, who coached the Spudders for one season. Andersen was an assistant coach for both Martin and Kitt Rawlings before him.
"He knows who we are and what we're good at," said senior John White, a tight end and linebacker who is in his third varsity season.
Just who the 2012 Spudders become will come down to how well the players buy into Andersen's plan -- and how well they commit to each other, the coach said.
"We have a great group of core senior players this year who have been committed to a winning Ridgefield football program," Andersen said. "We have had a
bit of a tough time getting the team concept back in place after all of the coaching changes, but we believe we are close to being there. Once that is in place, this team will be very tough to stop."
Team captains White, Ian Williams and Clayton Farr say the most noticeable change from last season is the tempo of practices. There is very little standing around or slacking off, even as the players try to learn new offensive and defensive schemes for the second consecutive year.
As seniors, Farr, White and Williams understand they have no time to waste.
"We've been looking forward to this season since seventh grade," said Williams, a running back and linebacker.
Shortly after Andersen was hired, he placed ownership on the most experienced players.
"The coaches told us it was our job to make sure people show up" for summer weight lifting and seven-on-seven drills, Farr said.
That summer work set the tone for a productive training camp. The captains said opponents might be surprised by the tempo and the intensity the 2012 Spudders carry into games.
Despite the revolving door to the head coach's office, these seniors have experienced some football success. Last season, they went 6-4, including a playoff loss at Montesano. In 2010, Ridgefield went 7-3 and suffered a two-point loss at Onalaska in the district playoffs.
The current seniors remember how painful that playoff loss was for that season's seniors. They are planning for a happier conclusion to their football careers.
But the challenge for the 2012 Spudders goes beyond breaking in a new coach. The past two years Ridgefield competed in the Class 1A Trico League.
This season they move up to the Class 2A Greater St. Helens League, meaning they will compete against schools with larger enrollments. Ridgefield will be one of the smallest Class 2A schools in the state this year.
"If anything it just puts a chip on our shoulder," Farr said. "We want to show that we can compete against bigger schools."