The Ferndale Golden Eagles own a 69-19 record since winning a state championship in 2005. Not bad at all.
But while wins haven’t been hard to come by, deep postseason runs, especially lately, are a different story. The Golden Eagles have been bounced each of the last two years by national power Bellevue. Last year Ferndale lost in the Class 3A Quad-District Playoffs.
In fact, during the past six seasons Ferndale hasn’t advanced beyond the state playoffs’ first round.
Senior running back and linebacker Marcus Nightingale believes this year’s Golden Eagles are the “best we’ve been in years.”
Coach Jamie Plenkovich is more guardedly optimistic about this fall.
“We’ve been really pleased with the intensity and effort in practice,” Plenkovich said. “Our kids have done a good job of competing. We have been very competitive. We probably have more depth than we’ve had, so we have a lot of competitions for positions and spots, so I think that’s raising the level of our guys, so that’s a positive.”
Depth could be one of these Golden Eagles’ strong suits, but because the team has talent at certain spots doesn’t necessarily mean Ferndale has a whole lot of game experience.
The Golden Eagles lost starting quarterback Cooper Clark, who arguably meant just as much if not more on the defensive side of the ball. Joey Akers’ graduation will be tough to swallow, and a number of others such as Klinton Maassen, Robert Hardin, Brady Bauthues and Hunter Grunhurd are gone.
The losses mean Ferndale quickly will need to acclimate to game speed.
“We still have a lot of inexperience, so you’d like to see that come around quickly,” Plenkovich said. “As a coach you’re always impatient for that, but guys need time to mature and understand what speed you have to play with. A young team, a lot of the time it takes a long time to figure those things out. It’s important for us to figure that out quickly. I think our guys will.”
One of those players is new junior quarterback Kyler Schemstad, who has impressed Plenkovich with both his offseason work ethic and leadership.
“Quarterback has to be a leader, and Kyler Schemstad has done a great job here in spring and in camp,” Plenkovich said. “He’s going to be a guy that steps up.”
It’s yet to be seen whether or not Schemstad will throw more than Cooper did last year, but he has a good group to hand the ball off to. Ferndale amassed an impressive 327.4 ground yards per game last fall. Chiefly responsible for that production again will be senior bruising back Nightingale, as well as Daniel Jones and Austin Honeycutt.
Plenkovich has a tremendous amount of competition going on for spots along the line, but Chris Hernandez is expected to anchor the group. John Weg also is expected to start at tight end.
“Especially up front, we are as deep as we’ve been in some time,” Plenkovich said. “We have some good body types up there. We have some smart kids there, so we are excited about that group.”
Hernandez also should be a fixture on the defensive side of the ball, and behind him is a talented group highlighted by Nightingale and junior Taylor Bellefuille, who is a first-team all-league selection.
Both Dante Kelley and Christian Cameron are athletic returning starters at cornerback, but the Golden Eagles will have to sort out the rest of their secondary.
The defensive group has high expectations to follow. Ferndale gave up only 256.5 yards per game last fall.