Coaches and athletes alike are adjusting to new positions as the Colton Wildcats prepare for the start of their fall football season.
First-year coach Jim Moehrle estimates he has a total of 15 or 16 years of assistant coaching experience under the likes of Ray Hobbs, Tim Sperber and most recently Clark Vining. After becoming Colton High athletic director, Moehrle took a hiatus from formal coaching work, but he ultimately agreed to step back in once Vining announced his resignation following last season.
The 2018 Wildcats finished third in the Southeast 1B League, falling one spot short of a state playoff berth. They were dominant against the likes of St. John-Endicott/LaCrosse, Pomeroy and Touchet, but failed to muster a win through a total of four games against Sunnyside Christian and Garfield-Palouse. Gar-Pal is not fielding a football team this year, but the league is expanding to add four more in its place for 10 teams in all, with Yakama Tribal, DeSales, Tekoa-Rosalia and Lyle/Wishram joining the pack.
This year’s Wildcats are a young team, and with no athletes standing more than 6-foot-1 or weighing more than 200 pounds, they are not a large one. The Colton roster numbers 16 in all, including only two seniors along with four juniors, three sophomores, four freshmen and three eighth-graders.
In addition to three all-league seniors who graduated in the spring, Colton loses erstwhile quarterback Jon Bean, whose move to Nampa came as a late-summer surprise. Taking Bean’s place is Chris Wolf, who has played wide receiver in the past and will be assuming the quarterback role for the first time. Meanwhile, Trent Druffel moves from tight end to fill Wolf’s old receiver post.
“It’s kind of all new all the way around,” Moehrle said of his 8-man lineup. “We’ll have some new faces, probably do a few different things, and see how that works out. I’ve coached with coach Vining enough we’re gonna try and keep some of the things the same, but obviously there’ll be some changes and different things as well.
“Our line’s probably got our most returning depth, with Jackson Meyer and Jackson Moehrle coming back,” he noted. “Hopefully, they’ll kind of anchor the line, and we’ll hopefully be very solid on the line. They’re not very big, but they do have some experience and know the system.”
Acknowledging that his team faces a “steep learning curve,” Moehrle has spoken of platooning some of the additional positions,
“I think it’s going to come down to our younger kids and how well they develop over the course of the year,” he said of Colton’s prospects for league success. “We’ve got a lot of new faces in new positions. Right now, it’s a learning process; we’re just trying to see where we’re at.”
A major step in that process will come this Friday at home in the Wildcats’ season debut against St. John-Endicott/LaCrosse, which they defeated in two encounters last year.
“St. John does have pretty much everybody back,” Moehrle said. “I think they have eight seniors, so they should be pretty good this year.”
Although St. John is a Southeast 1B League adversary, this will be considered a nonleague game, with the teams’ rematch later this month to count toward the standings.
“We have already improved a lot in the first two weeks, so hopefully we keep improving and starting to put things together,” Moehrle said. “Like I said, we’re young, and hopefully we’re going to improve a lot as the year goes on, and by the end of the year I think we’ve got some athletes that are capable of winning some games and doing some good things.”
Coach — Jim Moehrle (first year)
Last year’s record — 6-4
Returning letterwinners — Chris Wolf, sr., Jackson Meyer, sr., OL/DL; QB/LB; Trent Druffel, jr., Receiver/DB; Jackson Moehrle, soph., OL/LB.
Game times are 7 p.m.
Date — Opponent
Sept. 6 — St. John-Endicott/Lacrosse
Sept. 13 — Desales
Sept. 20 — Yakima Tribal
Sept. 27 — at St. John-Endicott/Lacrosse
Oct. 11 — Tekoa/Rosalia
Oct. 18 — Lyle
Oct. 25 — at Pomeroy
Nov. 1 — Garfield-Palouse
Nov. 7 at Sunnyside Christian