The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Ken Graham
The Times 

DW Football Full of Fresh Faces

No starters return from last year's league championship team, which graduated 17 seniors


August 31, 2017

Nick Page

DW lineman Drake Lamere (74) and running back Chris Philbrook (30) celebrate a touchdown from the bench during a game last year. Lamere and Philbrook will see very little time on the bench this season, as they are both expected to be starters on both offense and defense for DW.

WAITSBURG – In sports lingo, they call it a "rebuilding year." Dayton-Waitsburg head football coach Troy Larsen says he and his coaching staff still have a lot of decisions to make as far as which of his players will start at what positions.

But he's looking forward to seeing who takes on the strong leadership roles on the team, starting Friday night, when his team takes on Mac Hi in Waitsburg. The game starts at 7 p.m.

"We're going to have a new set of leaders this year," Larsen said. "It'll be exciting to see who steps up."

DW lost 17 seniors to graduation from last year's Eastern Washington Athletic Conference league-championship team. All of that team's regular starters, on both sides of the ball, are gone. On top of that, turnout is lower this year, with an expected roster of about 35 players, compared to just under 50 last year.

Larsen said he's been very pleased with the work his players have done in practice so far this month, and he's confident DW will field a competitive team as it begins its second year playing in the EWAC.

DW's new quarterback this season will be Brayden Miller, a senior from Waitsburg.

"He's more of a running quarterback than Jacob (Dunn) was," Larsen said of DW's starting quarterback the last three years. "So we'll be seeing more read-option type plays. Our offense will definitely be run first."

The running game will be led by Senior Chris Philbrook, who saw limited playing time last year. Philbrook will also likely start at linebacker on defense.

"We have a real competition going at the receiver position," Larsen said.

Junior Helm, a Dayton senior, is playing football for the first time. He has played soccer in previous years. Larsen expects Helm to be the team's kicker/punter, as well as competing for a spot on the team's receiving corps and defensive backfield.

Other players looking to earn spots as receivers and defensive backs include Colton Johnson, Joe LaRue, Hayden Wooldridge and Chris Andrews. Jeff Dieu is expected to play slot back and linebacker.

Jared Williams is expected to join Philbrook and Dieu on the linebacker squad.

The offensive line is one area where players with experience will be returning. Seniors Cade Branson and Drake Lamere, along with junior Jack Willis, saw some action last year on the offensive and defensive lines. Willis will start at center. They will be joined on the line by Tavin Seeney.

Many more key positions are still up for grabs, Larsen said.

Larsen will have three assistant coaches returning from last year, including Al Wilson, Johnny Watts and Gabe Kiefel. Joining the staff for the first time this year will be Tracy Pearson, who is Dayton's new shop teacher. Marc Maiuri, who came to Waitsburg as a physical education teacher last year, will also join Larsen's staff, and will serve as head coach of the DW middle school team.

Looking at the second go-round of the EWAC, Larsen says that most of the teams in the league are in a similar situation as DW.

"Most of the stronger teams lost a lot of seniors last year," he said. Larsen feels that, even with their lack of playing experience, this year's DW team will be competitive and has a good chance for a strong EWAC finish.

"Tri-Cities Prep probably is our strongest competition this year," he said. "They're really developing a good program over there, and have some strong players coming back.

DW plays TCP in Dayton on Sept. 22.

Larsen said that DeSales and Kittitas will also field strong teams this year.

"And you can't count out other schools, like Lyle and White Swan," he said. "A couple of strong players coming into the program can turn a team around."

We asked Larsen if DW has established a team mascot this year. "We've talked a lot about it, but we won't this year," he said. Larsen said his players have discussed a number of possible names, including the Barnstormers, the Wheat Kings, the Threshers, and even a double-entendre name: "The Combines."

Larsen said that with the full Dayton-Waitsburg athletic combine anticipated for next season, it'll be up to the student bodies of both schools to establish a new mascot for all of the teams. "It'll probably be up to the students to vote," Larsen said.

"Right now, the kids like having both of the mascots (Bulldogs and Cardinals) on their helmets," Larsen said. "And they're using both of them. Cardinals on offense, with their lightning speed and agility, and Bulldogs on Defense."


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