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R.A. Long football preview: Second-year coach tries to build stability

Lumberjacks return no starters from last year

By Joshua Hart, Columbian sports reporter
Published: September 3, 2019, 5:59pm

With every one of its starters gone from a winless 2018, the R.A. Long Lumberjacks enter this season with plenty of questions. Coaching isn’t one of them.

For the first time in five seasons, the Lumberjacks don’t have a first-year head coach as Dave McDaniel returns for his second year.

“The kids do well with it,” McDaniel said. “They get used to me and the staff more every year.”

McDaniel, too, is adjusting to the high school game. Last year was his first as a high school coach.

High school sports fall tab 2019

This article is part of The Columbian's High School Fall Sports 2019 special section, published in print on Sept. 1. View it online.

“It has slowed down for me,” he said. “I’ve been to clinics this year and it’s opened my eyes how much it takes to develop a successful program. Rick Steele at Hockinson, the Auburn coach (Aaron Chantler), the Sumner coach (Keith Ross), those guys put a lot of energy into it. That was an eye-opener.”

The Lumberjacks will start up to 13 sophomores this season, and McDaniel conveyed to them the speed of the game will eventually slow down. Early on, there may be some struggles.

“They’re really excited to play varsity as sophomores,” McDaniel said. “I’m sure they’re a little concerned also. It’s going to be an experience this year playing against some real athletes from teams like Hockinson.”

The Jacks will turn to more run-pass options, a switch from the power-I formation they worked out of last year. Sophomore Julian Sheldon will slot in as quarterback, along with junior Gage Kotera. Jacob Johnson-Valencia is one of the few varsity returners and be the primary running back.

Defensively, Rene Alvarez could shine at cornerback and Rhys Cronk is a big linebacker.

3 things to know

— The Lumberjacks return no starters from a winless 2018.

— R.A. Long has seven wins in the past four years.

— The Lumberjacks play just three home games this season.

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Columbian sports reporter