Like any coaching staff, Ferndale football coach Jamie Plenkovich and his assistants take a number of factors into consideration when deciding who will see playing time on Friday nights. Year in school just doesn't happen to be one of them.
"We tell them, 'I don't care what class you are; we're going to play the best 11,'" Plenkovich said. "We're in the process of trying to decide who that is right now - maybe more so than in the past. We have a lot of spots up for grabs now."
The biggest reason for that uncertainty is the influx of a large number of talented sophomores who are challenging the upper classmen for their spots.
"It's definitely pushed the older guys, and we've got young guys competing for spots," Plenkovich said.
The one thing the sophomores have yet to bring to the Golden Eagles, though, is bulk.
"We don't have a ton of size, but that's never mattered to us," Plenkovich said. "We want guys that are aggressive, and in the high school game, you can get away with guys that aren't as big if they're aggressive and athletic. We'll go with those type of bodies. It's always nice to have both size and athleticism, but that doesn't come along all the time."
What the Golden Eagles do have is plenty of team speed, which should help feed the aggressive, swarming attitude Plenkovich seeks, especially on defense.
Hunter Grunhurd is a returning two-way starter on the line, but he'll be joined by a host of newcomers on the defensive front that were still being decided upon during preseason practices. Linebacker also was undecided, though Plenkovich said the Golden Eagles go two deep and Brady Bauthues, who saw playing time last year, seems to have a great understanding of what Ferndale is looking for.
Ferndale returns both cornerbacks in Joey Akers and Cooper Clark, which should be a huge benefit, while Anthony Fleck is a physical, athletic safety.
On offense, Grunhurd will be joined by returning starting guard Nate Carlson and Colin Wagner, who saw some action at center.
Clark is back for his second year running the Golden Eagles' Wing-T attack.
"Coming into this time last year, we moved him from wide receiver late in the spring, and we didn't know how he would do," Plenkovich said of Clark. "He just grew and grew and does a terrific job of running our offense. He's really a good ball-handler."
Though Ferndale graduated all its top running backs from last year, Akers, Bauthues and Fleck all saw their share of work and have terrific speed along with a number of other newer faces.
"We feel we have a lot of guys that can carry the ball and have good speed there," Plenkovich said. "With our offense, it's good to have three or four guys that can tote the rock, and when they're not toting it, hopefully take out a couple of defenders with a block or a fake or something."
Robert Hardin and Ian Barnes could give Ferndale a pair of big targets at receiver along with Dante Kelly.
"We've just got to keep growing. We're a young team still trying to figure things out. We're going to have to bring along some guys that are going to have to play for us early. Then it will be up to our older guys bringing them in and helping them grow from here on out and making sure we can continue to get after it, because we are going to be somewhat undersized." - Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich
KEYS TO THE SEASON
1. Bring on the swarm
Without much physical size, Ferndale will have to rely on its wealth of team speed to build an aggressive, swarming mentality, especially on defense.
2. Respect the name on the front
Ferndale built a terrific team-first atmosphere in 2012 that carried it to the 3A state playoffs. This year's seniors hope to build on that principle.
3. The young and the inexperienced
With so many youngsters pushing for time, Ferndale will have a number of new faces this year. They must learn on the job and jell together in a hurry.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cooper Clark, Senior QB/DB
Showed he can direct Ferndale's Wing-T attack, guiding the team to 328.6 yards rushing per game last year. Look for him to pass a little more this year and be part of a strong secondary for the Golden Eagles.
Joey Akers, Senior RB/DB
Had a great summer lifting, according to Plenkovich. He and Clark give Ferndale two returning cornerbacks, and he'll also be a big factor in the run game.
Hunter Grunhurd, Senior OL/DL
A returning starter on both lines, Grunhurd's experience and physicality will be invaluable as the Golden Eagles settle in with rebuilt fronts this year.
Anthony Fleck, Senior RB/DB
Rushed for 238 yards last year and will be the team's starting fullback this year. He'll also complete an extremely strong defensive secondary at safety.
Sept. 6 Blaine 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 at Sehome (at Civic Stadium)* 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 Garfield 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 Burlington-Edison* 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Squalicum (at Civic Stadium)* 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 Sedro-Woolley* 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Bellingham (at Civic Stadium)* 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 Lynden* 7 p.m.
Oct. 31 Anacortes* 7 p.m.
*NWC 2A/3A game
9-2, 6-1 NWC 2A/3A
Aug. 31 Notre Dame W 49-21
Sept. 7 Sehome* W 35-29
Sept. 14 at Garfield (at Seattle Municipal) W 62-12
Sept. 21 at Burlington-Edison* W 55-14
Sept. 28 Squalicum* W 41-14
Oct. 5 at Sedro-Woolley* W 55-14
Oct. 12 Bellingham* W 54-0
Oct. 19 at Lynden* L 49-14
Oct. 26 at Anacortes* W 55-13
CLASS 3A CROSSOVER PLAYOFFS
Nov. 3 Hazen (at Civic Stadium) W 22-16
CLASS 3A STATE PLAYOFFS
Nov. 9 at Bellevue L 28-0
*NWC 2A/3A game
2012 STATISTICAL LEADERS
Player Att. Yards Avg. TD
Alex Conley 153 1,331 8.7 26
Hank Hilts 99 682 6.9 9
Richmond Baardson 72 615 8.5 6
Player Cmp. Att. Yards TD Int.
Cooper Clark* 21 46 386 5 6
RECEIVING Rec. Yards Avg. TD
Richmond Baardson 10 248 24.8 3
Cameron Massey 5 58 11.6 1
Luke Melton 1 34 34.0 1
No. Player Yr. Ht. Wt. Pos.
2 Christian Cameron Jr. 6-1 175 RB/DB
3 Mitchell Roegele So. 5-11 150 K
4 Andrew Higginson Jr. 5-8 150 K
5 Cooper Clark Sr. 6-3 185 QB/DB
6 Eli Melton Jr. 6-2 150 WR/DB
7 Mitchell Zwade Sr. 5-7 175 WR/LB
8 Kyler Schemstad So. 6-0 175 QB/DB
9 Cory Slaughter So. 5-7 155 QB/DB
11 Ian Barnes Jr. 6-5 165 WR/DB
12 Klinton Maassen Sr. 5-11 190 TE/DE
13 Robert Hardin Sr. 6-3 180 WR/DB
15 Cody Downs Sr. 5-9 165 WR/DB
17 Kyle Baker Sr. 5-9 155 QB/DB
18 Christian Skjold Jr. 5-10 155 RB/LB
20 Dalton Neer Jr. 5-11 170 RB/LB
21 Luke Scarborough So. 5-7 165 RB/DB
22 Anthony Fleck Sr. 5-6 165 RB/DB
23 Joey Akers Sr. 5-10 175 RB/DB
24 Kier Munzanreder So. 6-1 190 RB/DB
25 Hunter Crim So. 5-11 160 WR/DB
26 Brandon Hall Jr. 6-1 165 WR/DB
28 Josh Williams So. 5-8 155 RB/DB
29 Angeles Tapuro Sr. 5-11 155 WR/DB
30 Marcus Nightingale Jr. 5-9 220 RB/LB
32 Brady Bauthues Sr. 5-11 175 RB/LB
34 Daniel Jones Jr. 6-1 180 RB/LB
35 Dante Kelly Jr. 5-11 185 WR/DB
36 Robert Semu Sr. 5-11 200 RB/DE
38 Austin Honeycutt So. 6-3 185 RB/LB
40 Cody Tilton Jr. 5-11 165 RB/LB
41 Patrick Condon Jr. 5-10 200 TE/DE
42 Taylor Bellefuille So. 5-7 170 RB/LB
43 Wesley Bob So. 6-0 190 OL/DL
44 Cameron Blecha Jr. 5-9 155 RB/LB
45 Jake Leavitt So. 5-7 160 RB/LB
50 Nate Carlson Jr. 5-9 175 OL/DL
51 Alec Puckett So. 5-9 180 OL/DL
52 Brendan Tiffany Jr. 6-0 220 OL/DL
53 Sean O'Connor So. 5-11 295 OL/DL
54 Kyle Maassen Sr. 6-1 210 OL/DL
55 Riley Long So. 6-0 195 OL/DL
56 Todd Quackenbush So. 5-11 200 OL/DL
58 Christian Rodriguez So. 5-10 200 OL/DL
59 Colby Bellefuille Sr. 5-9 210 OL/LB
60 Alex Moulthrop Jr. 5-10 265 OL/DL
61 Johnny Wiley Jr. 6-0 205 OL/DL
62 Sam Cleary So. 5-9 175 OL/LB
63 Aron Brackinreed Jr. 5-11 285 OL/DL
64 Quvonte Dolan Jr. 5-11 210 OL/DL
65 Jairo Rojos So. 5-10 215 OL/DL
66 Adam Bob So. 5-10 190 OL/DL
67 Jacob Hindes So. 6-1 220 OL/DL
68 William Lucero Sr. 5-10 250 OL/DL
70 Hunter Grunhurd Sr. 6-2 225 OL/DL
71 Jim Kahle So. 5-11 205 OL/DL
72 Joel Quanz Jr. 6-0 200 OL/DL
73 Nick Bartel So. 6-4 280 OL/DL
74 Dakota Black Jr. 5-10 190 OL/DL
75 Zach Ericksen So. 6-1 275 OL/DL
76 Kalem Smith Jr. 5-9 220 OL/DL
77 Colin Wagner Sr. 6-2 220 OL/DL
78 Chris Hernandez So. 6-4 285 OL/DL
79 Kyler Obergottsberger Jr. 5-10 190 OL/LB
80 Cole Bos Jr. 6-5 190 TE/DL
81 Jackson King So. 6-2 170 WR/DB
82 John Weg So. 6-7 185 TE/DL
83 Braiden Klimp So. 5-9 140 WR/DB
84 Jagit Kahlon So. 5-8 130 WR/DB
85 Kolby Williams So. 5-5 125 WR/DB
86 Alex Castillo Jr. 6-3 200 WR/DL
87 Josue Ayala So. 5-9 155 RB/DB
88 Cody Colon Jr. 5-11 160 WR/DB
89 Tyler Abel Jr. 5-6 145 RB/DB
Reach Sports Editor David Rasbach at 360-715-2271 or email@example.com .